Message posted on 02/02/2023

Nordic STS CfA Universities and Grand Societal Challenges

Dear all,

We would like to invite you to join us for our panel on "Universities and Grand Societal Challenges. Disrupting academic work and modern knowledge-making ecologies" at the Nordic STS conference in Oslo from June 7-9 .

Convenors: Kyriaki Papageorgiou, Helen Gansmo, Vivian Anette Lagesen, and Knut H. Sørensen

Panel abstract

Universities are some of the oldest and most robust modern institutions. Their size and their importance in contemporary societies have increased substantially over the past century, due to their establishment as main hubs for the making, evaluation, and dissemination of knowledge, not the least through higher education. Since the 1990s, concerns have been voiced over the trajectory of universities and academic work, particularly how they have been reshaped by neo-liberal ideologies, especially managerialism and new public management. Today, universities face critical challenges, related to funding and relevance to society, but also in terms of the impact of and trust in the knowledge academics generate. Policymakers increasingly present universities and research institutes with so-called grand societal challenges, expecting these institutions to play a major role in the engagement with these challenges. This is an opportune moment, therefore, to examine and rethink the position and role of universities and the knowledge-making ecologies within which they are enmeshed. This task is even more relevant for the STS community to uptake, since at the core of the field are fundamental questions about the relationship between science and society.

This panel aims to contribute to better understanding the complexities and diversities of current university practices and explore alternatives. More specifically, we welcome submissions that examine the following challenges:

•    Academic freedom, epistemic politics, and collegiality •    Audit cultures, academic assessments, academic precarity and the future of tenure •    Open science and the academic publishing cultures •    New theories of knowledge and science •    Effects of digitalization and machine learning •    Usefulness of university degrees and universities’ engagement with life-long learning •    Repairing academic citizenship •    University utopias and hopeful futures.

Submission deadline: March 1 2023

Submission form:

We look forward to your submission.


Kyriaki, Helen, Vivian and Knut

-- Knut H. Sørensen Professor emeritus, affiliated with the Department of Interdisciplinary Studies of Culture Centre for Technology and Society, NTNU Norwegian University of Science and Technology Web pages :

Recent publications: Knut H. Sørensen and Sharon Traweek. 2022. Questing Excellence in Academia. A Tale of Two Universities, Routledge. Open access from Knut H. Sørensen. 2021. STS as a Lens to Study Disciplines and Interdisciplinarity. A Comment on Sharon Traweek’s ‘I Prefer the Map.’ Engaging Science, Technology, & Society 7.2: 88–96.

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