21 May 2015

International award for OU Emeritus professor who combines the technical with the social

Professor John Law

Professor John Law

The international Bernal Prize is awarded to Emeritus Professor John Law for his work in the field of science and social studies

The Open University’s Emeritus Professor John Law has been awarded the prestigious John Desmond Bernal Prize for scholars in the field of social sciences, awarded by the international Society for Social Studies of Science.

Professor Law’s inter-disciplinary work stems from STS (Science and Technology Studies) which explores science and technology within their social contexts. It draws on case studies in technology and on farming, which range from the outbreak of foot and mouth in the UK in 2001, to human-animal interactions on Norwegian salmon farms. He helped to create actor-network theory, has been central to the subsequent development of material-semiotics, is well known for his work on the messiness of research methods, and is currently working on post-colonial STS.

Professor Law is described by the society as being one of the most “accomplished and recognized scholars in the field of science and technology studies” and a source of inspiration for generations of scholars worldwide. “Known especially as a founder of Actor-Network Theory, John has conducted ground-breaking studies of co-existing modes of ordering, complexities, ambivalences, topologies, and their political implications,” the citation continues.

He joins a highly distinguished group of scholars including Lucy Suchmann, Karin Knorr Cetina, Donald Mackenzie and Bruno Latour.

Speaking of the award, Professor Law said: “I deeply appreciate the award personally but also because it highlights the importance of social science at the Open University, and of the discipline of Science and Technology and Studies (STS).”

Dean and Director of Studies, Social Sciences, Professor Kevin Hetherington said: “We are delighted to congratulate John on this achievement. John’s life-long dedication to the field of Science and Technology Studies will continue to inspire many generations to come.”

For further information on Professor Law’s academic work click here:
For further news about the award click on the Society’s link here:


Notes to Editors:

About The Open University
The Open University (OU) is the largest academic institution in the UK and a world leader in flexible distance learning. Since it began in 1969, the OU has taught more than 1.8 million students and has almost 200,000 current students, including more than 15,000 overseas.
The OU is rated in the top ten of UK universities for student satisfaction in the National Student Survey, since the survey began in 2005. In 2013/14 it had a 91% satisfaction rating. Over 70% of students are in full-time or part-time employment, and four out of five FTSE 100 companies have sponsored staff to take OU courses.
In the latest assessment exercise for university research (Research Excellence Framework), nearly three quarters (72%) of The Open University’s research was assessed as 4 or 3 star – the highest ratings available – and awarded to research that is world-leading or internationally excellent. The Open University is unique among UK universities having both an access mission and demonstrating research excellence.
The OU has a 41 year partnership with the BBC and has moved from late-night lectures in the 1970s to co-producing prime-time series such as Frozen Planet, Bang Goes the Theory, Britain’s Great War, I Bought a Rainforest and Business Boomers. Regarded as Britain’s major e-learning institution, the OU is a world leader in developing technology to increase access to education on a global scale. Its vast ‘open content portfolio’ includes over 800 free courses on OpenLearn, which receives 4.5 visitors a year, and materials on YouTube, Bibblio, AudioBoom and iTunes U, which has recorded over 69m million downloads.
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