View of Dumyat behind Airthrey Loch

Uncertainty

Arts and Humanities Postgraduate Conference - 14th-15th June 2021

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Conference programme

Take a closer look at the full conference programme.

We will send links to the broadcasts and a full programme via email to all those who register for the event. For easier viewing it is recommended that you use the Microsoft Teams desktop app, however this is not a requirement.

Call for papers

Affective and material states of uncertainty have been linked to many instances of social unrest due to humanity’s desire and even need for stability and predictable environments. Uncertainty has also been widely suggested as a distinct socio-economic feature of the past two decades; a time period characterised by the widespread state of perpetual impermanence and flux in many aspects of social and economic life such as employment, culture, the remembering of history, and interpersonal relationships.

This conference on ‘uncertainty’ seeks to facilitate discussion and the sharing of ideas on the many aspects of this phenomenon, especially in the past year, either as a psychological experience or as a purported feature of ‘modernity’. This includes opinions and theories surrounding its causes, effects, and potential solutions as well as more critical views on both the validity of ‘uncertainty’ as a distinct feature of the current socio-political climate and the universality of this concept to different geographic regions. Due to the varied aspects of life that the phenomenon of uncertainty influences, contributions from a diverse array of disciplines are welcome and a global perspective is sought through the interaction of contributions from multiple cultural backgrounds.

If you would like to submit a paper to present at this conference, please send an abstract of no more than 250 words to pgconference@stir.ac.uk by 3rd May 2021. Presentations are expected to be around 15 minutes each on your topic of choice.

The conference will be held on Microsoft Teams and a link will be sent out to those who register their interest. Register for this event as a speaker or an observer.

We look forward to reading your proposals.

Keynote speakers

Professor Paul Cairney

Paul Cairney is the Professor of Politics and Public Policy at the University of Stirling, UK (@CairneyPaul). His research interests are in comparative public policy and his research spans comparisons of policy theories (Understanding Public Policy, 2020), and co-authored accounts of methods associated with key theories (Handbook of Complexity and Public Policy, 2015), international policy processes (Global Tobacco Control, 2012), and comparisons of UK and devolved policymaking (Why Isn’t Government More Preventive?, 2020). He uses these insights to explain the use of evidence in policy and policymaking, in one book (The Politics of Evidence-Based Policy Making, 2016), several articles, and many, many blog posts. If you only have time for one article, make it How to communicate effectively with policymakers.

Keynote abstract: Uncertainty vs Ambiguity in Policy

In policy studies, there is a profound difference between uncertainty and ambiguity:

Uncertainty describes a lack of knowledge or a worrying lack of confidence in one’s knowledge.

Ambiguity describes the ability to entertain more than one interpretation of a policy problem.

Both concepts relate to ‘bounded rationality’: policymakers do not have the ability to process all information relevant to policy problems. Instead, they employ two kinds of shortcut:

‘Rational’. Pursuing clear goals and prioritizing certain sources of information.

‘Irrational’. Drawing on emotions, gut feelings, deeply held beliefs, and habits.

This presentation will propose an artificially binary distinction, uncertain versus ambiguous, and relate it to another binary, rational versus irrational, to point out the pitfalls of focusing too much on one aspect of the policy process.