The graduate program in Science and Technology Policy Studies was launched in the academic year 1997-1998 at the Middle East Technical University (METU). The research center linked to this educational program was founded in 1998. The archival documents show that during the establishment process of this center, different names suggested, including, "Science, Technology, and Development Research and Application Center" and "Centre for Science Policy Studies." The center got named as "Research Center for Science and Technology Policies" (TEKPOL).
To write a story about the beginnings of the research center TEKPOL, we selected two letters from the TEKPOL Archive. These letters were written by the founding members of the center, in which they provide justifications for the establishment of a research center for science and technology policy studies at METU. One letter was penned by the sociologist Hasan Ünal Nalbantoğlu and the other by the economist Yakup Kepenek. Though these letters note a couple of similar statements for justification, they differ from each other in their focus. By underlying these different imaginations regarding why such a center was a need in Turkey, we want to draw attention to the plurality of stories that can be narrated about the beginnings of this center as well as inviting TEKPOL members to reflect on the ways the vision of this center has transformed in time, if so.
Nalbantoğlu’s letter begins with the statement that “techno-science” is one of the most important factors among others that shape the existing life forms. He then underlines the need for comprehensive research that has well-stated problematic, and notes that it is important to get prepared both mentally and practically in response to the impacts of technoscientific developments in the twenty-first century.
If it is not wanted to remain like leaves flying away in the wind of scientific and technological change blowing from other countries, it is a precondition to embrace that the constitution of our country’s future science and technology policies with a long-term vision is a serious need.
In the letter, Nalbantoğlu also urges against the potential of such a center to get into the loop of market mechanisms as well as interventionist nation-state politics, and notes that such a center should take steps “against the tide.”
We want to highlight one sentence in the letter: “Attention! Reading the concept of “basic sciences” only in terms of natural sciences ‘is an impoverishment of the scientific soul, and serves only the existing power hierarchies within academia’.” Here, Nalbantoğlu draws attention to a well-known tendency, that is, the exclusion of social sciences and humanities when the subject matter is “science.”
Kepenek’s letter starts with an emphasis on the transition to “knowledge society” in the world, and has a particular focus on “technology-based economic development,” as it was stated in the Seventh Five-Year Development Plan (1996-2000).
The biggest problem facing the country is gaining a solid place in international division of labor through fostering its economy consistently and expanding possibilities for production and employment, and doing this in a rapidly developing technological context.
Kepenek notes that finding solutions to all other problems depends on finding a solution to this main economic problem. Thus, according to Kepenek, Turkey was in need of such a center for science and technology policies to “keep pace with the developments in the modern world.” The letter also underlines that such a center should have three main related functions: 1) research; 2) education; 3) consultancy based on research and continues specifying these main functions of the center.
A story about the beginnings of TEKPOL on the basis of two justification letters written by the founding members of the center.
METU TEKPOL Archive
Duygu Kaşdoğan, "TEKPOL: Beginnings", contributed by Duygu Kasdogan, STS Infrastructures, Platform for Experimental Collaborative Ethnography, last modified 13 August 2018, accessed 20 May 2022. http://www.stsinfrastructures.org/content/tekpol-beginnings