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Dr. Nicholas Buchanan

STS stripe


Nick Buchanan’s interests focus on the questions of expertise and authority, as well as challenges to assumed boundaries between experts and others.

He currently has two research projects that examine this broad theme.
The first project, still in its preliminary phase, intervenes in the debate between medical models and social-constructivist theories of disability by investigating the emergence of a new, non-traditional medical expert: Dr. Mom and Dr. Dad—caregivers, primarily parents, of children with chronic diseases and disabilities who are becoming increasingly knowledgeable about their child’s medical condition. These parents are using this knowledge to advocate for better care for their child and children with similar medical issues while also becoming engaged in activities that intertwine activism and biomedical research.
In the process, the rigid hierarchy of medical authority and expertise, and the “clean” boundaries between scientific research are becoming upset, posing questions about how medical care, medical research, and the very concept of disability and disease are changing.

His second project explores the formation of expert environmental knowledge through an unusual lens: the history of building replica, model worlds based on changing chemical, biological, and physical principles. The project focuses on the history of Victorian and early 20th-century aquaria and mid to late 20th-century biospheres and life support systems in space craft. It explores how these artificial environments played a central role in shaping scientific, popular, and policy understandings of the environment and the human place in nature.

Nick’s previous work, which examined the contested place of scientific expertise in controversies over environmental governance, engaged similar themes concerning human attempts to control the environment (and often the people in it), the difficulties of understanding and managing complex systems, and the tense interplay between science and policy.


Dr. Nicholas Buchanan
Room 01027
Tel. +49 (0)761 203-96873