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Note: This event has been cancelled due to concerns regarding the coronavirus outbreak.

The Science and Technology Studies Program at York University and the Institute for the History and Philosophy of Science and Technology at the University of Toronto present:

Binocular Conference 2020:

Crisis and Uncertainty

May 1-2, 2020

Uncertainty permeates scientific practice. Scientists create and influence theories, models, technologies, and practices designed for explaining and predicting phenomena from the very large to the very small. Actual and potential errors are unavoidable, and the consequences are sometimes far-reaching in both epistemic and ethical arenas. In light of this, various strategies have been employed to deal with these risks and uncertainties, ranging from facilitating science communication, focusing on the robustness of experimental outcomes, enhancing peer-review, implementing guidelines, creating expert panels, and increasing precision and efficacy via new technologies, practices, and institutions – all of which bring along further questions of uncertainty.

Social and political factors also play a significant role in historical and contemporary scientific uncertainties and crises. Kuhn’s Structure of Scientific Revolutions (1962) gave a significant methodological tool to think about practice in light of sociopolitical conditions, and we want to expand the conversation to include matters of epistemic privilege, who and what is deemed ‘normal,’ consent, and political and ideological contexts to include perspectives from those who study social scientific and humanities approaches to science. Distrust in institutions, political agendas, systematic biases, fears of the future, skepticisms around new technologies, and personal preferences underwrite not just scientific uncertainty and crises but in the societies from within which scientific practice and standards arise.

Binocular 2020 aims to engage in an interdisciplinary conversation around the facts and features surrounding contemporary and historical uncertainty and crisis in science. All methodologies which focus on science and scientific practice are welcome to contribute to a deeper understanding of these concepts.

Non-Exhaustive potential questions:

  • How has science dealt with uncertainty or impending crises in the past?
  • What practices or structures have arisen out of the midst of crisis?
  • What’s the difference between skepticism and denial of scientific evidence?
  • What role do scientific institutions (publishing, regulatory, education, museums, etc.) play in managing or documenting uncertainty?
  • How do contemporary practices aim to manage uncertainty?
  • How does the possibility of crisis and uncertainty work its way in rules of practice or definitions?
  • Are we in a crisis (public health, climate denial, vaccines, etc.) now?
  • How does our relationship with the environment and climate change shape our practices?
  • What social structures underlie crises?
  • How does privilege affect the uncertainty of scientific knowledge?
  • How might we quantify risk and uncertainty?
  • How do values and norms address uncertainty?
  • What lessons are there from the alleviation of past crises?
  • How do/have technologies and practices solved crises and uncertainties?
  • What were/are the ethical or normative considerations around novel technologies and practices?

Presentations will be 20 minutes, with 10 minutes after each presentation for Q&A. We welcome all papers that deal with the conference theme, however, we stress that the aim of this conference is for the benefit of graduate students who, from whatever discipline, engage with questions around science, technology, and society, to foster a better connectedness amongst us. Therefore, we also invite contributions not strictly related to the conference theme that still engage in the study of science and technology from social, political, historical, and philosophical perspectives.


To submit to Binocular 2020, please send an abstract to binocular2020@gmail.com that includes the following:

  • Name, institution, and email – Presentation title
  • Abstract of 250-400 words
  • 5-10 keywords


Call for Presentations (pdf)