Universiteit Leiden

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Research project

Valorization of Scientific Knowledge: Philosophy, History and Policy

This project aims to situate the current policy concept of ‘valorization of scientific knowledge’ in historical and epistemological perspectives. Conceptual understanding of the utility of scientific practices is developed in dialogue with historical analyses of the politics of knowledge in European post-war science policies.

Jorrit Smit

The research project “Valorization of Scientific Knowledge: Philosophy, History and Policy” is funded by NWO as part of the ‘Promoties in de Geesteswetenschappen’ program. The Dutch policy concept of ‘valorization’ denotes the ‘creation of value from knowledge by making it appropriate or available for societal and economic use’. Utility in a limited economic sense has dominated the legitimation and practices of public funding of scientific research in the post-war Western world. This resonates strongly in the current science policy concept of valorization (Jong, Smit & Drooge, 2016). By now it has materialized into specific valorization paragraphs in grant proposal assessments at funding organizations, valorization support and education at universities, as well as rankings and indicators to evaluate ‘valorizability’ of research, researchers, and universities. In this project I tend to unpack terms like valorization, societal impact and social relevance by tracing their historical development and identifying epistemological presuppositions. With a variety of methods from philosophy, history and sociology of science this research will highlight the co-production of science and society in post-war Netherlands, in comparison with the United Kingdom and Europe more generally.

Utility is central to this inquiry, as the philosophical counterpart to truth and as a practical reality in the development of science policy in post-war Europe. A philosophical reformulation of scientific research in terms of practices and politics embeds utility within the inquisitive process. Concepts like economic utility and valorization re-appear as specific manifestations of this situated value of scientific practices. The complexities of conflicting versions of the utility of science are explored in historical studies of the emergence of explicit science policy (as policy for science) on intellectual (historiography), international (OECD), national (Netherlands and United Kingdom), and local levels (universities).

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