Science and Technology Studies

Science and Technology Studies


In 1998, the then Vice-Chancellor at the University of Nottingham asked me to create a research centre to investigate the ethical, legal and social issues associated with new developments in genetics and reproductive technology. ‘You’ve done stuff on law and on medicine’, he observed, ‘and this is all sort of in-between’. As this centre developed over the next few years into the Institute for Science and Society, it acquired a much wider range of interests. My own contribution was mainly to sustain active collaborations with colleagues in law and in some areas of medicine. These included projects on genetic counselling, with Alison Pilnick, and on donor anonymity in assisted conception, human enhancement, cloning, cord blood banking, and the decoding of the human genome. However, my socio-legal interests extended this agenda into studies of regulation and other new technologies, including the introduction of nicotine chewing gum, the supply of pharmaceuticals to least developed countries, and the work of food inspectors in Riyadh, and into preliminary work on scientific misconduct. There were also opportunities to work on popular science communication through wildlife TV documentaries and on the attractions of creationism and intelligent design as rivals to evolutionary accounts of the origins of species. Much of this work showed a growing engagement with actor-network theory, as a result of the interests of my PhD students.

Since 2010, when I left the university, my principal collaborations have been with groups in computer science and engineering. These have developed thinking about the sociology of the future – given that the future is inherently unstable, how do human societies manage to stabilize it sufficiently in the present to make decisions that will have long-term consequences? This is a very dynamic area, where many people are searching for alternatives to the kind of thinking that just goes ‘upwards and to the right’ by drawing straight lines from the recent past into the future. I have also managed a somewhat more traditional research programme for the Institution of Occupational Health and Safety that has examined the challenges facing that profession to inform its strategic discussions about how best to serve the public in the medium term.

Sample Publications

‘Scientific misconduct as organisational deviance’, Zeitschrift für Rechtssoziologie 2001, 22; 2: 245258.

(B. Nerlich, R. Dingwall and D. D. Clarke) ‘The Book of Life: How the Human Genome Project was revealed to the public’, Health 2002, 6; 4: 44569.

(R.Dingwall and M. Aldridge) ‘Television wildlife programming as a source of popular scientific information: a case study of evolution’, Public Understanding of Science, 2006, 15; 2: 131-52.

(I. Turkmendag, R. Dingwall, T. Murphy) ‘Removal of donor anonymity in the UK: Silent claims-making of would-be parents’, International Journal of Law, Policy and the Family 2008, 22; 3: 283-310.

(C. Rooke, E. Cloatre and R. Dingwall) ‘The regulation of nicotine in the UK: how nicotine gum came to be a medicine, but not a drug’, Journal of Law and Society 2012, 39; 1: 39-57.

(E.Cloatre and R.Dingwall) ‘Embedded Regulation’: The Migration of Objects, Scripts and Governance’, Regulation and Governance 2013, 7; 3: 365-86.

(M. Goulden, T. Ryley and R. Dingwall) ‘Predict and Provide’: UK Transport, the Growth Paradigm and Climate Change’, Transport Policy 2014, 32:130-47.

(S. Reeves, M Goulden and R.Dingwall) ‘The Future as a Design Problem’, Design Issues 2016, 32; 3: 6-17.

(A Zanni, M. Goulden, T. Ryley and R.Dingwall)  ‘Improving scenario methods in infrastructure planning: A case study of Long Distance Travel and Mobility in the UK under Extreme Weather Uncertainty and a Changing Climate’, Technological Forecasting & Social Change forthcoming.