The doctoral dissertations of the former Helsinki University of Technology (TKK) and Aalto University Schools of Technology (CHEM, ELEC, ENG, SCI) published in electronic format are available in the electronic publications archive of Aalto University - Aaltodoc.

Expansion of Expertise in the Governance of Science and Technology

Mikko Rask

Dissertation for the degree of Doctor of Philosophy to be presented with due permission of the Faculty of Engineering and Architecture for public examination and debate in Auditorium R3 at Helsinki University of Technology (Espoo, Finland) on the 25th of July, 2008, at 12 noon.

Overview in PDF format (ISBN 978-951-22-9494-7)   [1178 KB]
Dissertation is also available in print (ISBN 978-951-698-187-4)


This dissertation focuses on the expansion of expertise in the governance of science and technology. The phenomenon refers to the process of increasing involvement of new actors in the debate and decision-making concerning new applications of science and technology. This process has taken place in Western societies during the last decades due to an increased level of general education and emergence of new institutions, which enable new actors to participate and also critically evaluate issues that previously were the responsibility of scientists and technological experts alone. Modern biotechnology is an example of an area in which these phenomena have had a central role in recent years.

The expansion of expertise raises issues that are interesting for research both theoretically and practically. Although this phenomenon can be interpreted through some existing theoretical frames, it also provides interesting perspectives on how to renew those frames. For example, interesting questions are how and on what conditions the expansion of expertise takes place in different arenas of technical decision making, and how it happens in societies that are at different stages of development. From the practical point of the view, it is evident that an uncontrolled expansion of expertise can harm both the efficiency of scientific and technological development and those actors who do not benefit from their involvement or are not interested in or are not provided the means to influence that development. Therefore, consideration of the expansion of expertise is necessary for practical reasons.

The key argument of this dissertation is that although previous theories have raised issues related to the expansion of expertise, this phenomenon is still viewed as separate from its context. Context here refers to the field in which the expansion of expertise takes place. In order to describe the context, the dissertation introduces the concept of "policy arena." By combining two dichotomic dimensions (actor induced: placid/polarized and institutional: hierarchic/participatory) four different types of arena are introduced and explored. The framework is elaborated and tested through three types of triangulation: theoretical, methodological and empirical. Each type of arena favours different types of expertise, their expansion, conflicts and roles in decision-making. The concept of "arena effect" is proposed to describe the influence of different arena characteristics on the expansion of expertise.

The dissertation is an article dissertation, including four papers that are published in scientific journals and an extensive introductory chapter that discusses and weaves together the papers. The introductory chapter contributes to the theory of the expansion of expertise, and comments on the recent debate on the so-called "normative theory of expertise." The four articles of the dissertation also contribute to specific research questions that are related to citizen participation, risk pre-assessment, foresight and research education.

This thesis consists of an overview and of the following 4 publications:

  1. Mikko Rask. 2003. The problem of citizens' participation in Finnish biotechnology policy. Science and Public Policy, volume 30, number 6, pages 441-454.
  2. Mikko Rask. 2006. Closure in risk debates: pre-assessment of Finnish forest biotechnology. Technological Forecasting and Social Change, volume 73, number 6, pages 705-730.
  3. Mikko Rask. 2008. Foresight – balancing between increasing variety and productive convergence. Technological Forecasting and Social Change, 22 pages, in press.
  4. Henrik Bruun, Richard Langlais, Mikko Rask, and Aino Toppinen. 2005. Moving to Mode 2: re-mode-ing research education in university departments. International Journal of Learning and Change, volume 1, number 1, pages 46-65.

Keywords: arena effect, biotechnology, citizens, expansion of expertise, foresight, governance, participation, policy arena, requisite variety, risk, science and technology policy

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© 2008 Helsinki University of Technology

Last update 2011-05-26