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Public controversy over science & technology and PCST

Hee-Je Bak   Department of Sociology, Kyung Hee University, South Korea

This article argues that, in contemporary societies, the public controversy over science and technology is one of the most important ways of communication between the public and scientists—a communication from the public to experts, in particular. By analyzing in-depth interviews of biology and biotechnology scientists in Korea, this paper attempts to examine how scientists view the public controversy over science and technology. The overall findings of this paper affirm Martin Bauer’s assertion that the public controversy over and resistance to new technology may function as unofficial technology assessment. In the in-depth interviews, many scientists confessed that, due to the public controversy over and resistance to GMO, they became given a serious look over the potential adversarial effects of their research for the first time. The scientists involved in the controversial research, in particular those who belonged to industrial research laboratories, have tended to pay greater attention to the public controversy over their research, while those whose research was relatively distant from the public controversy have tended to be insensitive to it. Some scientists reported that they have even changed their research topic to avoid the public controversy. In the conclusion, the implications of the public controversy over science and technology for PCST and technology assessment will be discussed.

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