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Aant Elzinga

Professor Emeritus

Linguistics, Logic and Theory of Science
+46 31-786 48 53
Visiting address
Renströmsgatan 6
41255 Göteborg
Postal address
Box 200
40530 Göteborg

About Aant Elzinga

Google Scholar Wikipedia-reference

Articles on Einstein in Berlin are found here.

Education and early outreach activities

Aant Elzinga originates from the province of Friesland in the northern Netherlands. As a youth he immigrated to Canada, where he after High School received a basic education in theoretical physics and applied mathematics (1960 - at the University of Western Ontario), but also studied works of philosophers (among others Alfred North Whitehead). Later, after a MSc in history and philosophy of science at University College London (UK) and involvement there in the student Pughwash movement he pursued higher academic studies in Sweden. Aside from formal research training, participation in movements for the social responsibility of science all along continued to afford an important alternative source of knowledge about science in context.

Supervised by Håkan Törnebohm at the University of Gothenburg, he obtained Fil Lic and Fil Dr.degrees. His dissertation, On a Research Program in Early Modern Physics (1971) is on the research and epistemology of the 17th-century Dutch mathematician, physicist and astronomer Christiaan Huygens. Prior to this, together with among others historian of ideas Ronny Ambjörnsson, he published an influential textbook in the history of science (viewed in societal context), and a controversial debate-book on the politics of science in Sweden, the U.S.A. and Soviet Union.

Career trajectory

Elzinga was appointed associate professor 1972 and full professor (succeeding Törnebohm) at Gothenburg 1986. In 1984 he worked as a science policy adviser at the Science Council of Canada, establishing a unit for research foresight, and since then served as project reviewer for research councils in various countries, EU programs & the ERC, and participated in many international panels evaluating research and research systems (for a.o. Unesco, UNDP, ICSU, Swiss NSF, ETH(Z), Swedish BFR and private foundations). Such engagemang has been important for his integrative take on ”social epistemology”, combining the history, philosophy and social studies of science. He was President (1991-1997) of the European Association of Science and Technology Studies (EASST) and continues to be a member of editorial advisory boards of several academic journals in this and related fields. Participated in the Swedish Antarctic Expedition 1997/98 and active in the International Polar Year (IPY 2007-09) and its followup.

Research concerns

  • A. Science as culture; scientific controversies; social epistemology
  • B. History, philosophy and social studies of science
  • C. Peer review processes and the role plus impact of evaluations on science (as part of Audit Society) – epistemic drift
  • D. The historically contingent character of ”ideals of science”; criteria of objectivity and relevance, and tensions between objectivity and partisanship
  • E. The politics of excellence – Einstein and the Nobel prize
  • F. Science policy studies (interactions between methods, regimes and doctrines in varying organizational contexts)
  • G. Research foresight, technology assessment; multiple roles of scientific expertise; public(s) engagement with science
  • H. History, methodologies and politics of Antarctic research, as well as climatology (ice coring) and the IPCC
  • I. Science and internationalism, science diplomacy
  • J. The symbiosis of science and the Cold War; changing images of science and research
  • K. Changing epistemic and social conditions of university research viewed in historical perspective - from Humboldt to early 20th century, and further to the Cold War, and current impacts of economic globalization;
  • L. Metatheoretical perspectives on inter-, multi- and transdisciplinarity; notions of ”scientific citizenship”