This conceptual introduction to the Special Section examines different modes of ‘tentative governance’ of Emerging Science and Technology (EST). The notion of tentative governance appears particularly relevant in the case of EST, given all the uncertainties and dynamics related to the scientific base, technologies, possible innovations, societal benefits and potential risks. While one may argue that such uncertainties are not peculiar to EST, it is nevertheless apparent that in industry, society and public policy the level of awareness of these uncertainties has increased, largely as a result of experiences with former emerging technologies (e.g. genetically modified organisms, nuclear technology). Governance is ‘tentative’ when public and private interventions are designed as a dynamic process that is prudent and preliminary rather than assertive and persistent. Tentative governance typically aims at creating spaces for probing and learning instead of stipulating definitive targets. The paper suggests a heuristic to position and relate the contributions to this Special Section. One main finding emerging from those contributions is that the inherent contingency of EST requires rather tentative approaches to governance, though often in combination with more definitive modes of governance, with the exact mixture involving a balancing act.
- Emerging science and technology
- Tentative governance
- Technology governance
- Policy learning
- Policy analysis