Call for Papers: STEMM and Belief in Diverse Contexts: Publics, Praxis, Policy and Pluralism

1 – 3 July, 2020

Stellenbosch, South Africa

Call for Papers

Please note: bursaries to support attendance are available, including (but not limited to) specific funds for early career researchers and researchers who are based in Africa.

Organised by the International Research Network for the Study of Science and Belief in Society (IRNSSBS) in association with the Centre for Research on Evaluation, Science and Technology (CREST), Stellenbosch University, South Africa.

In the last decade, there has been significant growth in social scientific and humanities research focusing on science, religion and belief in society. Greater attention is being paid to the varied ways in which perceptions of different aspects of STEMM subjects (science, technology, engineering, medicine, and mathematics) have been, or are, influenced by religious and non-religious belief, identity, community and conflict in different geographical, cultural and historical contexts.

As this field of research has grown it has engaged in myth busting popular perceptions and stereotypes about the relationship between science and religion, which treat both science and religious/spiritual populations as monolithic. To date, much of this foundational research has focused on North American contexts or debates. This conference seeks to build on this essential work and address future avenues for research within the social scientific and historical study of science, religion and belief in society to examine the practical implications and applications of research in this field. Expanding the geographical focus, the conference will encompass a range of issues at global, or local levels around four interlinked areas:

  • PUBLICS: Diverse (non)religious publics’ engagement with, and perceptions of, STEMM
  • PRAXIS: Issues relating to religion and (non)belief in scientific research or STEMM communication practices
  • POLICY: Public policy analysis, exploring concerns with the development of, or implementation of, policy connected to STEMM, and religion or belief in society
  • PLURALISM: Research on STEMM in pluralistic or religiously diverse societies.

This conference will bring together international researchers with backgrounds in sociology, science and technology studies, psychology, political science, history, social anthropology, and related humanities or social science disciplines, to discuss perspectives on the overarching topic of science and belief in society.

We are pleased to invite submissions of papers that relate to any aspect of STEMM in society (science, technology, engineering, medicine, and mathematics), that discuss any religious, spiritual or non-religious tradition, position or worldview.

Abstracts are invited for the conference relating to the following themes:

  •  Public engagement with STEMM in pluralistic or religiously diverse societies;
  • The social scientific and historical study of the relationship between science and religious and/or non-religious belief and identity;
  • Public perceptions of the relationship between science, religion and non-religion and their respective roles in society; 
  • National and international comparative perspectives on the study of science, religion and belief in society;
  • Past and present media or popular representations of science, religion and belief in society;
  • The past or present roles of science, rationalism, religion and belief in national, social or cultural identity and related geopolitical narratives;
  • Multidisciplinary and interdisciplinary approaches to the study of science, religion and non-religion in society;
  • Methodological approaches to, and issues in, the study of science, religion and belief in society;
  • Studies on the impact of publics’ views on science and religion on policy making, and provision for religious, spiritual or non-religious communities across a range of geographies and issues (e.g. healthcare provision, educational policy, science policy, environmental policy or development).

Individual or panel session submissions may cross over several of the themes listed above, and those intending to submit papers are encouraged to consider the relevance of their work to other academic disciplines.

Individual paper submissions 

To submit a paper proposal, please write a title and abstract of no more than 300 words, alongside a biographical note of no more than 200 words (see below).

Panel session proposals 

We will also be accepting a limited number of panel proposals with a maximum of four speakers. To submit a panel proposal, please send a session summary of no more than 250 words, alongside abstracts of no more than 300 words for each individual paper and a short biography of no more than 200 words for each contributor.

Contributor Biographies

For all submissions, please send a biography of no more than 200 words for each contributor, including name, institutional affiliation, email address, primary discipline or subject area, a statement regarding career stage (e.g., early career, mid-career), and if possible a link to a personal profile on an institutional web page or similar.  Biographies of successful applicants will be added to the International Network’s Research Directory when our new website launches in early 2020. Please indicate on your application if you would like to opt out of being added to the Research Directory.

All submissions should be made online, on this website. The submission form will be on the home page from 1 January 2020 and must be completed no later than Tuesday 14 January 2020.

If prior to submission you have any questions about your panel or paper proposal please contact the network co-ordinators Professor Fern Elsdon-Baker (University of Birmingham) and Dr Alexander Hall (University of Birmingham):

All abstracts and panel proposals must be submitted online by the end of 14 January 2020.

Conference Costs and Bursaries:

Please note that for all successful applicants, accommodation and registration costs will be paid for by the International Research Network for the Study of Science and Belief in Society, as part of a 3-year grant from the Templeton Religion Trust.

In addition to this, a number of bursaries and honoraria are available to support those who may not have institutional funding to attend international conferences, including but not limited to: postgraduate, early career, retired, low income/unwaged, or any researcher who may not ordinarily be able to access institutional funds to attend international conferences.  

Please note, we also have a number of specific bursaries and spaces specifically for researchers who are currently based in South Africa or other African countries. Finally, we have some limited bursaries to help cover the costs of any other needs associated with attending the conference (e.g. contributions towards child/dependent care costs incurred through conference attendance).

To request a bursary or any additional support, when submitting your abstract, please complete the additional box on the online submission form, giving a short statement of why you would like to be considered for one of the bursaries.

Early Career Workshop

Please note that we will be running a fully-funded early career workshop in the days prior to this conference, but this will be announced and advertised via a separate call.

For more information contact Dr Alexander Hall (

Key Dates: 

Abstract submission opens:  1 January 2020

Deadline for online submissions (abstracts, panels & bursaries): 14 January 2020

Decision notification/registration opens: 21 January 2020

Registration deadline for presenters: 28 February 2020

The conference is supported by the Templeton Religion Trust and is being held as part of the activities of the newly established International Research Network for the Study of Science and Belief in Society, based at the University of Birmingham (UK).

For more information about the conference or wider network please contact Dr Alexander Hall: