Mapping Controversies on Science for Politics

Democracy is the possibility to disagree.

Equipment for mapping and interpreting controversies.

MACOSPOL (Mapping Controversies on Science for Politics) is a joint research enterprise that gathers scholars in science, technology and society across Europe. Its goal is to devise a collaborative platform to help students, professionals and citizens in mapping out scientific and technical controversies.

Technical democracy requires spaces and instruments to facilitate public involvement in technological and scientific issues. Such democratic equipment is yet to be assembled, even though much theoretical research has been done to envision its articulation. At the same time, digital innovations are providing an increasing number of new instruments and forums that can be used to promote public participation.

MACOSPOL has been set up to facilitate the connection between these two developments, allowing the best research in science, technology and society to ally with the best research on web-based tools.


The goal of the Macospol project, assembling a web-based platform to help the exploration and mapping of scientific controversies, has the involvement of 8 partner teams, and different lines of research represented by 8 Work Packages.

WP1 : Collecting tools for controversy mapping (Paris)

Macospol Work Package 1 consists in surveying, testing and evaluating the massive amount of techniques, procedures, softwares, sites available on the web, and bringing them to the knowledge of the Macospol consortium.

See the website where you will find the whole archive of the online resources for the cartography of controversy.

This work is carried out by the team lead by Bruno Latour at Sciences Po in Paris, France.

WP2 : Delivering full scale two internet-based mappings of controversies (Munich)

Based on the tool “risk-cartography: visualization of argumentative landscapes”, Work Package 2 delivers cartographies on two risk controversies : food supplements and nanoscale materials.

This work is carried out by the team lead by Cordula Kropp at Ludwig Maximilian University in Munich, Germany, with the participation of Kristin Asdal at the University of Oslo, Norway.

WP3 : Organizing the platform and improving the compatibility of the tools (Amsterdam)

The collected tools and case studies assembled on the Macospol platform are organized by Work Package 3 through interactive tutorials to help the users approach the analysis of controversies and overcome the compatibility issues.

This work is carried out by the Govcom team led by Richard Rogers at the University of Amsterdam, The Netherlands.

WP4 : Dealing with visual space (Lausanne) & WP5 : Designing the space of controversies (Manchester)

Through different kinds of work (case studies, comparison between the collected tools…), geographers of Work package 4 and architecture specialists of Work Package 5 are mobilized to deal with the spatialization of the controversies and try out a generalized spatial language for navigating controversies yet allowing for diversity of each particular case.

This work is carried out by the teams of Valérie November at the Ecole Polytechnique Fédérale de Lausanne, Switzerland, and of Albena Yaneva at the University of Manchester, UK.

WP6 (Liège) & WP7 (Vicenza) : Testing the political relevance of the platform

Integrating the information-gathering aspects and the political intervention aspects of the same topics will be tested through two dry runs of the platform. The first one will invite actors involved in the controversy on the disappearance of bees to experiment the platform for this case (Work Package 6). The second one will test the platform with people interested in the general questions of controversies, as if the platform was the elementary building block of a “quasi parliament” able to represent a given issue to the public (Work Package 7).

This work is carried out by the teams of François Mélard at the University of Liège, Belgium, and of Massimiano Bucchi within the organization Osberva in Vicenza, Italy.

WP8 : Managing the Macospol project (Paris)

Funded by the European Commission under the 7th Framework Programme, Macospol is a goal-oriented process which must abide the EC rules, and needs operational management guidance and follow-up. This work is carried out by Axel Meunier at Sciences Po.

Macospol Research lines

1. Surveying and evaluating the world offer of tools for mapping scientific controversy and supporting participation in technological democracy.

2. Building a portfolio of case-study analysis in controversy mapping at different level of elaboration (undergraduate, graduate and Ph.D. level).

3. Identifying the drawbacks of each of the collected tools (expensive proprietary software, lack of compatibility, users’ unfriendly interfaces…) in order to envision their overcoming or to find alternatives.

4. Exploring how design and geography can improve the visual performance (information management, readability, second degree manipulation, transportability…) of the representing equipment for technical democracy.

5. Testing the political relevance of the platform as a “quasi parliament” capable of hosting and shaping the actual debates about science and technology.

Funded under the Seventh Framework Programme of European Union

Scientific Co-ordinator: Bruno Latour.

For information please write at: