MUSTS studies the relations between science, technology and society, focusing in particular on Cultures of Research and Innovation. We are interested in settings that are infused with new knowledge, instruments, artefacts and skills. We examine for example how change and innovation evolve in cultures such as the engineering workshop, the regulatory body, the laboratory, the audio studio, the science café, or the hospital.

Our research has a strong coherence in terms of approach and methodology. Cultures of research and innovation are studied in a radically interdisciplinary way. The classic disciplines of sociology, history and philosophy play an important constituting role. Sociological problems are historicized; historical questions are shown to have normative dimensions; and ethical issues are studied as social phenomena. Analysis typically moves between different levels (from micro-level studies of local practices to macro-level questions of governance, policy and morality). MUSTS research is adventurous in exploring a variety of theoretical and empirical fault lines; but it is always rigorous in its methodological approach, theoretical grounding, and scholarly justifications.

Main research themes:

Research and innovation have never been solitary efforts, but instead have long required complex constellations of actors and institutions to work together. In this sub-theme we examine how these collaborations are organized to produce and adapt research (“know-what”) and innovation (“know-how”). We define “research” broadly to encompass practices leading to new understanding, whether in science, engineering, or craft. Similarly, in this sub-theme we do not solely privilege commercially-valued technological innovation: we also look to practices that uncover what is already known (“exnovation”) and practices of social innovation, for instance in the use, care, adaptation, and maintenance of existing technologies. Still, novelty and innovation are important phenomena, so in this sub-theme we examine how different kinds of actors arrange themselves around new fields (“sociology of expectations”) and how new and emerging science and technology (NEST) is co-produced with shifts in values (“techno-moral change”).

Scientific theories rely on networks of humans, practices and things in order to gain traction. In line with the internationalist and universalist ambitions of late-modern science, these networks increasingly span the globe. In this sub-theme, we explore the development of border-crossing networks of knowledge production and consumption. We focus on the globalization of science and technology, the institution-building and standardization practices this involves, as well as the relative autonomy, resilience and revival of local practices of knowledge production. Special attention is paid to the relative inclusiveness (or exclusiveness) of the networks of knowledge production and circulation. As such, we examine, for instance, the active involvement of consumers in the development of science and technology as well as the changing ideals and practices of ‘open science’. Finally, we explore the role of non-human agents in scientific networks – ranging from devices over built infrastructures to living organisms and ecologies. In this way, the sub-theme questions dichotomies between the universal and the local, and human and non-human agency.

Developing expertise in domains such as art, music, science, engineering and medicine, whether as an individual or a group, has always been an embodied process of learning amidst technologies. Artists train their perceptive skills while performing and making with materials. Scientists’ experiments involve complex skilled interactions between humans, organisms and objects. Doctors train to know the body, through their senses and with technologies. MUSTS projects in this subtheme build upon decades of scholarship in this area, extending beyond the existing focus in STS on tacit knowledge to contribute new theoretical and empirical insights into how bodies, technologies (digital and non-digital), and knowledge are co-created. Research explores issues such as: the interaction between the experts’ authority and their skills, and the negotiated boundaries between subjectivity and objectivity in sensory knowledge production. Working on such topics requires new research methods to study embodied expertise, including artistic research, re-enactments, online and multisensory ethnography.