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Based at The University of Edinburgh, the ESRC Genomics Policy and Research Forum is part of the ESRC Genomics Network and pioneers new ways to promote and communicate social research on the contemporary life sciences.

Tuesday, 22 March 2011

Mon aventure écossaise chez les chercheurs en science sociale ...

Coming from the South of France, I had some prejudices about Edinburgh: Wet, dark and cold! As a sociologist, I should have known that prejudices are a mistake, and indeed, I have spent two weeks with cool and rather sunny weather… But that was not enough to take me out of the Forum (except during the week-end!), because here is the brightest light of my journey.

When getting in, Margaret, the Administrator will give you the first friendly welcome. The place is cosy and seems quite. Despite, everybody is very busy here! European programs, publications, surveys, meetings, seminars, ... well just a day in the life of an ordinary research team? Not that sure! Because, at the Forum, there is no scientific routine. Interdisciplinary, of course, and ready to meet people from all disciplines, biological, sociological, medical, sciences, ... But, that is not enough, because here come also social and economic actors, and even artists. What for? To escape from scientific routine, for sure! 

As an environmental sociologist, my journey at the Forum was an opportunity to bring more sciences studies in my work, as knowledge, expertise and incertitude are central in the comprehension of the evolution of nature management. And so I did as I was able to access a wide range of scientific literature offering rich material to discuss with the researchers of the team.

Thanks to Steven Sturdy who has opened a completely new issue to me.  I did not suspect before to be in strong links with my own topics: genomics as a new field to question relationship between scientific and popular taxonomies. Thanks to Steven Yearley who has highlighted to me at the same time the meaning and the escape from the old Anglo-Saxon debate “realism versus constructivism”. Emma Frow gave me the opportunity to share with her our respective interdisciplinary experiences underlining the similarities and differences between English and French way of doing things. David S Ingram, from the Forum Advisory Board gave me a stimulating short introduction to the botanist tools I missed to explore a hidden part and nevertheless a hotspot of biological invasions: the pathogens.

All these exchanges helped me in going further in my own reflection about the management and perception of biological invasions, as a case study of the changing taxonomies crossing nature/culture, wild/domestic, anthropocentrism/biocentrism and other divides, in a context of social changes and uncertainty. Finally, I had the opportunity to attend a special event organised by Gengage (based at the Forum) in Glasgow, called “What should happen to your brain after you die?” ... an example of interactive exchanges between science, decision making and citizens.

Cécilia Claeys
Lecturer in Sociology, University Aix-Marseille

Cécilia claeys is a Lecturer in Sociology at the University of Aix-Marseille (France), where she teaches environmental sociology, sociology of science, political sociology, as well as theories and methodology. As a researcher, she is attached to field surveys as a stimulating and indispensable first step to develop sociological analysis. The South of France is her favourite playground, following debates about the management of “nature” and uses conflicts. Throw different cases study regarding floods, biological invasions, mosquitoes control, National Park creation, she questions, in a context of social and environmental changes, the meaning and operability of cultural and scientific dualisms as nature/culture, wild/domestic, anthropocentrism/biocentrism and other more divides.

Short list of publications:
Claeys C. 2010, « Les « bonnes » et les « mauvaises » proliférantes : Controverses camarguaises », in Etudes rurales, N°185, Juin-Juillet.
Claeys-Mekdade C. (2003), Le lien politique à l’épreuve de l’environnement. Expériences camarguaises, Peter Lang, P.I.E., Bruxelles, 240p.
Claeys-Mekdade C. (2006), « La participation environnementale à la française : le citoyen, l’Etat … et le sociologue », Vertigo, revue électronique, Montréal, Vol. 7, N°3, Décembre.
Claeys-Mekdade C. and Jacqué M (2008), « Nature protection associations in France », in Protectiong Nature. Organizations and Networks in Europe and the USA, ed. C.S.A. (Kris) van Koppen and William T. Markham, Edward Elger, U.K – U.S.A..
Claeys-Mekdade C. et Allard P. (2007), « Managing the environment and metamorphoses of the State : the French experience, Desenvolvimento e meio ambiente, N°16, jul/dez, Ed. EFPR, Brasil, pp. 39-54.
Gendron C., Vaillancourt J.G., Claeys-Mekdade C. et Rajotte A. (2007) dir., Environnement et sciences sociales. Les défis de l’interdisciplinarité, PUL, Québec, 432 p.
Picon B., Allard P., Claeys-Mekdade C. et Killian S. (2006), Gestion du risque inondation et changement social dans le delta du Rhône. Les catastrophes de 1856 et 1993-1994, Cemagref, 122 p.

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