William Clark

Boundary work signifies the processes through which the ‘research community organizes its relations with the worlds of action and policy making’ (Hellström and Jacob 2003, 235) on the one hand, and with practice-based and other forms of knowledge on the other. Originally developed to help understand efforts to demarcate ‘science’ from ‘non-science’ (Gieryn 1983; Evans 2005), the idea of boundary work has since been applied to the interface between science and policy (Jasanoff 1990; Guston 2001) and, more broadly, to the activities of organizations that seek to mediate between knowledge and action (Cash et al. 2003). The central idea of boundary work is that tensions arise at the interface between actors with different views of what constitutes reliable or useful knowledge, and that those tensions must be managed effectively if the potential benefits of research-based knowledge are to be realized by society. Too little permeability of the boundaries separating science from the world of action means too little learning from or contribution to practice. Dissolve the boundary entirely, however, and not only does science risk being politicized, but politics and politicians risk being viewed as mere mouthpieces of the technocracy (Guston 2001; Jones et al. 2008, sect. 3.1.1). Active boundary work is therefore required to manage effectively the interfaces among various stakeholders engaged in harnessing knowledge to promote action (Jasanoff 1990)

References:

  • Cash D.W. et al. (2003) Knowledge systems for sustainable development, Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences 100 (14): 8086-91
  • Evans R. (2005) Introduction: Demarcation socialized: Constructing boundaries and recognizing difference, Science, Technology and Human Values 30 (1): 3-16
  • Gieryn T. (1983) Boundary work in professional ideology of scientists, American Sociological Review 48: 781-95
  • Guston D.H. (2001) Boundary organizations in environmental policy and science: An introduction, Science, Technology, and Human Values 26 (4): 399-408
  • Hellström T., Merle J. (2003) Boundary organisations in science: From discourse to construction, Science and Public Policy 30 (4): 235-8
  • Jasanoff S. (1990) The fifth branch: Science advisors as policymakers, Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press

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