Centre for Law and Environment


Sheila Jasanoff gives the Haldane Lecture

12 March 2015, 6:00 pm–8:45 pm

Professor Sheila Jasanoff: The Constitutional Place of Science - The 2015 UCL STS Haldane Lecture UCL STS in association with UCL Centre for Law and the Environment and UCL STEAPP.

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Centre for Law and Environment


Gustave Tuck Lecture Theatre University College London Gower Street WC1E 6BT London United Kingdom.

For the 2015 UCL STS Haldane lecture, we are delighted to welcome Professor Sheila Jasanoff to UCL. Her lecture will be on The constitutional place of science.


The world’s written constitutions scarcely mention science in explicit terms, and yet science exercises power on a par with the constitutionally designated institutions of government. Perhaps most obviously, science constrains the form and scope of state action through its power to declare matters of fact and to enable technologies. Yet, as shown by decades of research in science and technology studies, public science is itself socially and politically constructed through rules of delegation, deference, and accountability that are seldom openly acknowledged or systematically analyzed in legal or political theory. In this talk, I will draw on examples from the governance of environmental risk and the biosciences and biotechnologies to explore the constitutional place of science in contemporary democracies. It emerges from this analysis that the uses and accommodations of science in public reason form a distinctive element of national political culture. Institutionally mediated relations between science and politics affect what democratic publics accept as evidence, how they perceive the common good, and how they contemplate their futures. Science in this way participates not only in making societies as they are but in shaping imaginaries of societies as they ought to be.

Sheila Jasanoff is Pforzheimer Professor of Science and Technology Studies at the Harvard Kennedy School. A pioneer in her field, she has authored more than 100 articles and chapters and is author or editor of a dozen books, including Controlling Chemicals, The Fifth Branch, Science at the Bar, andDesigns on Nature. Her work explores the role of science and technology in the law, politics, and policy of modern democracies, with particular attention to the nature of public reason. She was founding chair of the STS Department at Cornell University and has held numerous distinguished visiting appointments in the US, Europe, and Japan. Jasanoff served on the Board of Directors of the American Association for the Advancement of Science and as President of the Society for Social Studies of Science. Her grants and awards include a 2010 Guggenheim Fellowship and an Ehrenkreuz from the Government of Austria. She holds AB, JD, and PhD degrees from Harvard, and an honorary doctorate from the University of Twente.

This lecture is in partnership with the UCL Centre for Law and the Environment and UCL STEAPP.