In the paper I argue that visions of publics are brought into being or 'co-produced' with visions of science or scientific expertise. That is to say that visions of one are inseparable from visions of the other and should not be considered in isolation. For example, if we define science as a product of a carefully bounded and exclusionary elite with superior knowledge and expertise, and no responsibility to address a conception of the 'public interest', then the public will be defined as a passive and ignorant group with no influence on (and no right to influence) science or science policy-making. On the other hand, if science is viewed as a diverse and inherently social activity operating within a society with competing demands, expectations and claims to truth, then publics can be viewed as contributing moral direction and, potentially, substantive knowledge to the practice of science and science policy-making. The paper explores these different and evolving visions of science and its publics over the last 50 years through empirical examples including: the anti-nuclear movement; HIV/AIDS activism; Cumbrian sheep farmers in the aftermath of Chernobyl; and planning conflicts.
Like any working paper, this argument is very much a work in progress and concerns themes which I will be developing over the next few years. Any comments, criticisms, conversations more than welcome!