Maja Horst – University of Copenhagen

Maja Horst

Title: Professor, Head of Department of Media, Cognition and Communication

Member of the BioSYNergy Steering Group

Address: Karen Blixens Vej 4
2300 København S
Office: 14-3-41

Phone: +45 353-28853
Phone (Secretariat): +45 353-28100

Read about my research within science and society and how I apply it in relation to synthetic biology below.

Breaking and Entering: A participatory installation exploring different opinions on the ideal relationship between science and society. 
I co-created this installation as part of the 'Social Scientific Responsibility’ project.

Science and Society Research

My research interests revolve around the relationship between science and society - with a particular focus on the public debate on new knowledge and technology. I have previously lead research projects studying e.g. the public debate on stem cell research, and studying research management and risk. Among the fields that I work within are:

  • Science and technology studies.
    The study of how social, political and cultural values affect scientific research and technological innovation and how these, in turn, affect society, politics and culture.
  • Research and science communication
    The study of how research and science results and processes are communicated by various sources to non-expert societal and political stakeholders including the general public via the media.
  • Public debate on research and technology
    Studying the debate involves attaining an understanding of how values and opinions form in the public domain, and how they affect and are affected by research and science communication.
  • Research management
    The study of how research management affects scientific social responsibility and risk assessment internally in the research environments, and of the relationship between different types of research management strategies and the ability to attract research funding over time.
  • University organization
    Including studying the structural and scientifical implications of establishing crossdisciplinary university research.
  • Innovation sociology
    Studying how innovation communication involves an intertwining of the creation of new markets and expectations to the limitations and promises of new technologies. 

Currently,my research is focusing on:

  • Scientific social responsibility
  • Research managers’ communication
  • Ethics in research communication
  • Political contributions science sociology’s

As a lecturer and supervisor I have taught and mentored students within the following areas:

  • Science and technology studies
  • Commmunication theory
  • Strategic and political communication as well as risk communication
  • Theory of science
  • Qualitative Methods
  • Problem oriented enterprise


Read more about my research in the Department of Media, Cognition and Communication here. 


For an updated publication list click here.

My research within Center for Synthetic Biology


Based on the “share your parts” principle of nature, synthetic biology may guide

us to environmentally benign solutions to address some of the global challenges, we are confronted with. However, for such an approach to be successful we need not only to get the science right but also to ascertain that we take scientific social responsibility seriously, following approaches that will be recognized as worthwhile by the general public. The selection of proper science approaches and constructive dialogue with the general public and citizen scientists will be achieved via the establishment of benchmark bioethics and communication platforms. These platforms not only cross the science disciplines but also reach out to the general public, politicians and small, medium, and large enterprises.

With the commencement of the BioSYNergy project, I became involved in the Center for Synthetic Biology. Within the collaborating framework of the Center my research group will establish a novel and integrated communications benchmark platform for making society and scientists equipped for constructive dialogue on new technologies and scientific social responsibility.


Responsible research and innovation is a grand challenge for European science and societies, and with the BioSYNergy project we will take the lead in developing best practices in this field. Crucial will be to envision controversies and scepticism as a key opportunity for developing better and more robust innovations. Instead of imagining external stakeholders as posing barriers to research, we will integrate as many diverse perspectives and opinions on technological development in order to make the BioSYNergy research project as socially robust as possible. Public scepticism should not be seen as an impediment to science, but we need to understand the fundamental origin of such skepticism and address it directly, rather than just disregard it.


This work will be centered around both concrete, public engagement work and in basic research on science-society engagement such as:

  • New forms of democracy and participation
  • Science communication in social media
  • Cognition, materiality and emotions


Our bioethics and communication benchmark platform will entail these efforts to integrate perspectives, understand the science and reach socially robust solutions. The predicted outcome will be a new breed of researchers serving as frontrunners in this development. Not only will they have a deep and embodied experience and understanding of how to practice responsible research and innovation. Their general research practices will also benefit from this platform. Open communication ensures the absence of fraudulent behaviour, which is more difficult to hide in environments where open discussion prevails.


Read more about the Center’s research here:


View the Center’s scientific publication output here