Concepts and practices are essential for how we think about the world and how we act in it. They provide orientation, guide expectations, and provide the grounds for communication and social coordination. In an increasingly complex world, cross-border transfer, dissemination, and circulation of concepts and practices are essential for global cooperation and science communication alike. Yet, concepts do not mean the same thing to everyone. Ways of doing things are not necessarily shared across the boundaries of societal sectors, nation states, or regional entities. However, despite the intricacies involved, researchers and practitioners often assume that direct policy transfer across world regions or sectors is attainable, or that projected knowledge transfer from the academic to the political or the public sphere is possible. But what happens if the circulation of concepts and practices flies ‘out of control’ – when through appropriation and translation they develop a life of their own, or circulation meets obstacles that disrupt it altogether?
These processes can also be related to the study of conceptions of world order and global politics. Examples include attempts by Western, Chinese, and Russian actors to diffuse and legitimize their own world order conceptions. More recently, in the Ukraine war, a bounded conception of imperial world order confronts Western conceptions of liberal international order, while at the same time appropriating (and mis-using?) some of its elements. In the field of science communication studies, increasing attention is directed towards understanding how and why attempts of making academic knowledge accessible to wider publics meet rejection and refusal, while scientific practices are (mis)appropriated to produce pseudo-knowledge. The translation of complex academic concepts and practices into popular notions might also generate dissonance that estranges scientists from the aims of transfer and dissemination.