10 of 10 people found the following review helpful
on March 14, 2004
This is a terrific book. The argument goes roughly like this: there has been a change from mode 1 to mode 2 science (explained in their previous book) involving greater interdisciplinarity, more goal directed research, and a diversification of sources of research funding. This book now argues that there has also been a concomitant change in the public sphere. Perhaps the easiest way to describe it is that in the 19th century we had mass primary education; in the first half of the 20th mass secondary education; and in the last 50 years mass university education. As a result, expert decisions cannot be taken by only a few: there are too many civil servants, think tank employees, consultants, and other members of the general public who are able to understand and criticize. Scientific and technical decisions, especially relating to science policy, simply cannot be taken behind closed doors. What we get instead is a more complex and more democratic process, where the aim is socially robust knowledge - a compromise that the enlarged body of decision makers can agree upon. It may be called socially distributed expertise. The authors pursue this using the term agora, the Greek equivalent of the Latin forum. They are attuned to the many interesting changes that has come with this new setting, such as the challenge to the peer review system.
The book is written in the genre of the grand, unspecific sweep. There are few references and few concrete examples. The crude before-and-after discourse is heuristically useful but of course in many ways misleading. These stylistic choices are not everyone's cup of tea, but they do help making the above argument.