At the Swiss Young Academy (SYA), scholars across different disciplines work together on a variety of social, cultural, political and ecological issues. A returning contestation is the dichotomy between science and activism, the boundary between them, and the role and duties of scientists and science. What is science and what is activism? Where does one end and the other begin? Why is it necessary that we keep these two worlds apart and is that even possible? When it comes to taking a stance in this debate, do early career researchers face the same challenges as more established scholars? The different conceptions of knowledge and knowledge production and what this entails are rooted in the members’ different epistemological commitments.
The science/activism dualism has so far been insufficiently investigated from a transdisciplinary perspective in the Swiss context. Our project therefore aims to explore, reflect and discuss this connection between science and activism theoretically and empirically, from a transdisciplinary perspective. Ultimately, this project provides the space for an examination of our members’ own practices as scholars and as representatives of the SYA. If the dualism between “science” and “activism” remains unexamined, various unresolved issues emerge in transdisciplinary collaborations. They include conflicting conceptions of what science is/does and pose conflicts for scientists when they engage in debates beyond academia.
The project firstly engages SYA members in a collective learning process through a set of workshops. The aims of the workshops are to (A) collectively explore how our disciplines uphold and deconstruct the science/activism dichotomy, (B) reflect on the role and responsibilities of scholars, and (C) explore contradictions in the current higher education landscape such as the simultaneous push towards impact and denunciation of activism. There will be two public events towards the end of the project, in two regions of Switzerland.
Can science be neutral? Can scientists be activists?
2 September 2023 I 14.00-15.30