EMAPS (Electronic Maps to Assist Public Science) is a collaborative research project aiming at answering in the most innovative way the topic SiS.2011.3.0.6-1 which calls for an assessment of “the opportunities and risks in the use of the web and the social media as a meaningful information tool and for developing a participatory communication between scientists and the different publics”.
To do that, our proposal focuses first on the emerging uses of the web as a tool of collective endeavor and public debate, then on engaging actors involved in two particular technoscientific issues (aging/life expectancy and climate change adaptation) in an ‘open-air’ experiment using online interactive platforms that will be designed and developed within the project.
In the domain of science-society interactions, the aim of EMAPS is to get a better understanding of whether the web can provide an meaningful equipment to produce an enhanced interest of a wider public in science and technology issues, not as receivers of information about end results of science, but as potential participants in science in the making. Particularly for controversial topics like the life expectancy or of climate change, the present EU call underlines the potential as well as the risks of the explosion of online communication and the proliferation of producers and consumers of scientific information, whether institutions, researchers, journalists or bloggers. To cope with this situation, EMAPS proposes an innovative model to trace the heterogeneous networks constituted by science and technology issues — the continuous entanglement between the media process of producing opinions and the scientific process of producing facts.
Accordingly, the involvement of different publics, whether scientists, journalists, activists, corporations or citizens, will come from favouring the political relevance of their disagreements through access to datasets and documentation, representation of the debates and their dynamics, etc. which digitalization now enables to map and share. This is the hypothesis EMAPS would like to assess, drawing on a set of theories and practices to be assembled in the project: digital methods, science and technology studies, communication design and social innovation. Six partner institutions will participate, including specialists of the climate change adaptation issue. The scientific coordinator at Sciences Po, Prof. Bruno Latour, is among the researchers who created the field of science studies, and has an extensive experience in analysing technoscientific controversies. So far, however, the outreach of controversy mapping as a form of publicization of science and technology issues is still limited. Therefore innovations of EMAPS lie in the participation of the Young Foundation, a not-for-profit organization based in the UK; in the survey of existing experiences of online technoscientific debates; in the design of debate mapping driven by potential users’ needs; and in the assessment of the impact of our web platforms to build an open community not only of users but of contributors as well.
While being innovative, the clear-cut goal and strategy of EMAPS establishes, in our view, the sound basis for an interdisciplinary research project, insures that relevant answers to the EU are provided at the end of the three-year duration, and integrates dissemination activities throughout the whole research process.