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Big science in the knowledge society: The heterogeneous engineering of the European Spallation Source (ESS) in Lund, Sweden.

Modern big science projects bear traces of the past by their sizes, costs, and grandiose promises, but are increasingly framed in a context of a dynamic knowledge society where boundary-breaking, versatile projects are the stars of the show. The European Spallation Source (ESS), planned to be built in Lund, Sweden, is a typical such project, balancing between the celebrated past and the promising present. This project will study the process by which the ESS is coming into being by operationalizing the notion of ESS as heterogeneously engineered by several actors, interests and stakeholders (scientific, technological, political, institutional).

Three subprojects make up the study and focus, in turn, on the politics of ESS, the scientific workforce for the facility, and the design of instruments. By analysis of contemporary documentation and archival material, in-depth interviews with key actors, and ethnography, the project connects to traditions in science and technology studies (STS) and combines crucial perspectives on an urgent topic. Severely understudied in both Swedish and international context, these topics can provide insight to how big science has transformed after the end of the Cold War to adapt to the modern knowledge-based society and its multifaceted expectations. The project also creates understanding of the premises of big science in Sweden and Swedish cutting edge science in a contemporary globalized scientific community.

Funded by Swedish Research Council, 2013-2015


Olof Hallonsten, PL, Department of Philosophy, Linguistics and Theory of Science, Gothenburg university.
Helena Pettersson, Department of Culture and Media Studies, Umeå university.
Kerstin Sandell, PL, Department of Gender Studies, Lund University.

Department of Gender Studies
Visiting address: Allhelgona Kyrkogata 14, House M, Lund
Postal address: Box 117, 221 00 Lund, Sweden
Phone +46 46-222 00 00 (operator)
Fax: 046-222 40 04

Faculty of Social Sciences