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Studio 2 - The knowledgeable citizen: Expert-laymen communication and participatory practices in a scientific and technological society

Digital technology, media and the Internet are increasingly used in the communication between experts and laymen. Today, scientifically generated knowledge and controversies are encountered and propagated through digital technologies, creating arenas for participation and provoking discussions on knowledge and expertise.

Examples of completed research projects

The aim of the this project was to study how the development of various communications practices and of different information technologies continually reshapes the conditions for public engagement in science and simultaneously transform the relationship between experts and lay persons. To elaborate on this theme we studied what might be regarded as an ideal type of the scientifically informed citizen, the amateur scientist. Amateurs are actively engaged and well versed in scientific issues; to some extent they understand the workings of science, and many of them participate in the production of scientific knowledge. Amateur scientists have increased in number during the 20th century, and have become a constituency of the modern knowledge society and an important link between science and the general public.

As an empirical case we analyzed the history of Swedish amateur astronomy from its origins around 1900 until the present. Traditionally amateur astronomy has strong ties to professional astronomy, and is at the same time a highly information dependent, actively knowledge producing and intensively communicative culture. It is therefore well suited for the study of knowledge in circulation, public appropriation of science and the way information technologies are implemented and utilized in these processes.

Project blog (in swedish)

Contact: Johan Kärnfelt, johan.karnfelt@idehist.gu.se

The project was conducted in collaboration with GPCC - University of Gothenburg Centre for Person-Centred Care (http://www.gpcc.gu.se/english) engaging researchers from the learning sciences, theory of science, nursing, health and care, and informatics.

In Sweden, 1.4 million persons are estimated to receive drug treatment because of hypertension in 2008, at a cost of 2.4 billion SEK. Although there is ample evidence that the incidence of cardiovascular complications of hypertension may be lowered through successful pharmacological treatment, there is also evidence that patients often do not follow health providers’ treatment recommendations. Non-adherence to properly prescribed medicines is a major global health problem.

The overall aim of this research program was to examine if a mobile phone-based self-report system, using the patient’s own mobile phone, will improve adherence to treatment of hypertension and lead to personal involvement of the patient in the treatment. Specific objectives are:

  • Analyze the patients' and health providers' expectations and experiences considering treatment of hypertension
  • Identify factors that can contribute to better communication between patients and health providers
  • Develop an interactive mobile phone-based system to support self-management of hypertension
  • Evaluate this system in clinical praxis

In this project we identified concepts and development of conceptual framework via focus group interviews. We also created questions for the PRO to be used in a mobile self-report system, and assess the developed questions for the PRO using a mobile phone in clinical praxis.

Contact: Karin Kjellgren, Institute of health and care sciences, karin.kjellgren@fhs.gu.se

Science has begun to turn to crowds of online volunteers through open calls for help in analysis of very large sets of data. This initiative goes under the banner of "citizen science", "crowdsourcing" or "crowd science" as scientists are making use of contemporary digital networking through the Internet to attract and enlist crowds of volunteers to contribute to projects in a wide variety of disciplines as diverse as astronomy, papyrology and biology. This is considered an important and innovative way for science to expand the workforce needed to work with large data sets. This type of relationship between non-scientists and science has not been encountered on such a grand scale before and offer volunteer contributors the opportunity to take part in on-going scientific research. Contributions from a wider population into scientific knowledge production, however, require arrangements to ensure quality. A key question becomes who or what creates scientific knowledge in crowdsourcing projects? How is digital technologies used to enable volunteers with limited knowledge about theory and method to contribute to science? How is agreement on scientific rigour and data quality achieved and maintained? Through established methods of social network analysis, both on- as well as off-line, this project will contribute to our understanding of how digital technologies are transforming the ways scientific knowledge is produced. The primary theoretical contribution will be to develop a social epistemology of crowdsourcing in scientific practice. Providing a structure and context for volunteer-derived knowledge that more broadly makes it possible to articulate, formalize and validate this type of increasingly important scientific projects.

The project was funded by the Marianne and Marcus Wallenberg foundation.

Contact: Dick Kasperowski, Department of Philosophy, Linguistics and Theory of Science, dick.kasperowski@theorysc.gu.se

Lessons to be Learnt from Research Projects within the University of Gothenburg Centre for Person-Centred Care (GPCC)

An array of different principles and rationalities are currently informing moves to increase patient involvement and empowerment within contemporary healthcare. For example, a central feature of new patterns of patient-centred care is the establishment of a therapeutic alliance between the patient and healthcare professionals implying shared responsibilities for care delivery. Building on such a vision of partnership and further emphasizing the biopsychosocial needs of the patient, the goal of person-centred care implies the expansion of innovative efforts to tailor care in relation to personal needs and individual experiences of suffering.

This project bringing together researchers from LETStudio, Sahlgrenska Academy and the University of Exeter Medical School engages in comparative analysis of the varying challenges encountered in the design and implementation of person-centred care across seven GPCC healthcare interventions. Using a combination of semi-structured interviews with involved researchers and doctoral students as well as focus group meetings and document analysis, the project aims to describe and analyse the specific working definitions of person-centred care informing the different interventions. Particular attention is being paid to how different professional contexts and socio-material settings shape the enactment of person-centred care. So moving between such fields as acute cardiac care, health promotion and preventative care and psychiatric care, the project is also concerned with identifying and analysing the variable barriers and facilitators impacting the delivery of person-centred care in different settings.

Contact: Mark Elam, Department of Sociology and Work Science, Mark.Elam@gu.se