2-4 May 2022
Europe/Vienna timezone

Thematic Fields

Open Science: Rethinking the Science and Society Relationship

Transparency of procedures, accessibility, and critical contestation of results lie at the heart of scientific knowledge production. However, scientific practices have often been found to fall short of these ideals. The metaphor of the ivory tower describes science as self-centred, inaccessible and not responding to social needs.

Investigating practices of knowledge production has a long history in social studies of science. At first, STS scholars challenged traditional scientific epistemologies and began to scrutinise social dynamics of scientific truth making in the laboratory. Controversial scientific practices, such as recombinant DNA technologies, raised questions of trust in and credibility of science, leading scholars to question what makes scientific knowledge socially robust. As a response to these scientific controversies, many European countries took active steps to advance policy-making. “Inclusive governance” has become an important goal for the European Commission since the early 2000s. As ELSA research in the context of genomics explored new approaches in public-policy, ideas regarding responsible research and innovation (RRI) began to materialize in fields such as nanotechnology. Aiming at “inclusive governance”, RRI in general and Open Science in particular promote the engagement of civil society in various forms of knowledge production with the aim of creating a wider and more inclusive process of research and innovation, as well as political decision-making. Open Science holds the promise to respond to these challenges and enhance science and society relationships by making science more open and accountable to the public.

With this call, we invite proposals for sessions that explore the potential of Open Science to allow for more inclusive, transparent and accessible practices of knowledge production and possibly contribute to responsible research and innovation, as well as critical assessments of where Open Science might fall short of these aims.

Digitalization of Society, Society and AI

Digital technologies are a central element of transformations in contemporary societies. Are these recent processes different from how information and communication technology has induced social change in the past decades? Current discourses about a “digital revolution” that encompasses every sphere of social life (“digitalization of work”, “digitalization of business”, “digitalization of education”, “digitalization of healthcare”, etc.) suggest that such a digital transformation of society is underway. Empirical observations from quite different social fields support the conclusion that the transformative power of digitalization is still growing. Mobile devices, connectivity, social media platforms, big data, machine learning and related developments, as well as the new practices and social innovations associated with them, are about to induce substantial changes in many spheres of society.

For some years now, one can observe how social media changes political communication. In the economic sphere new platform-based business models and production processes managed and controlled by cyber-physical systems involve substantial changes of work, work organization and labor relations. In the scientific domain, digital technologies may change the way in which knowledge is produced, justified, assessed, distributed and implemented in practical contexts.

Currently artificial intelligence and machine learning tools are introduced in areas reserved previously for human decision-making. Machine learning algorithms are used to support recruiting processes, to classify job seekers, to recognize faces, or to make medical diagnoses and suggest therapies, raising questions of possible biases of such algorithms and the problem of the transparency and traceability of such algorithmic decision-making.

The COVID pandemic showed the potential of digital technology to change society with unexpected speed and impact. Working online from the home office changed schools, universities, and working relations, and some of these changes will last.

It is important to understand how these socio-technical innovations interact with societal forces in bringing about this transformation and to explore the challenges and opportunities associated with them. In doing so, session proposals should focus on a particular social field, a particular phenomenon of digitization, or a particular opportunity or challenge associated with the digitalization of society.

Towards Low-Carbon Energy Systems

The analysis of social, technological and organisational frameworks of efficient energy use forms the basis for proposals in this thematic field. They should focus on the shaping of sustainable energy and the adaption to and mitigation of climate change.

Socio-economic aspects of energy technologies and energy supply, strategies of environmental technology policy and the development of measures and strategies for the promotion of renewable energy sources and sustainable construction are in focus, as well as the transition to a sustainable energy system. Further important themes are climate-friendly consumption, sustainable lifestyles, regional governance, climate policy strategies, innovation policy, and in all fields the participation and the role of users.

Mobility: A Socio-Technical System on the Way to Sustainability?

The German term "Mobilitätswende" (mobility transitions) stands for several challenges of the ongoing and much needed fundamental change of our mobility system: decarbonization; changes of mobility behaviour; renaissance of walking, biking, tram, and train; digitalization of mobility and virtual mobility; justice of space; affordability; "Flygskam" — to name a few perspectives of interest.

Researchers are invited to propose sessions dealing with the analysis of social and political aspects of the mobility system and its historical and future development, or of specific aspects of this system.

Gender, Science and Technology

This area of research particularly focuses on a broad understanding of gender, including queer-feminist, post-colonial and ‘crip’ perspectives of science and technology.

Currently the COVID pandemic and its consequences bear a lot of feminist questions, from care and responsibility to intimacy, economic and ecological perspectives.

he way people taking care for their bodies and health, organise their lives, do their jobs, live family and kinship has strongly been influenced by reduced physical contacts, and the demands of online communication.

Session proposals can address feminist issues of the pandemic and the measures to overcome COVID 19 and its long-term consequences all over the world.

Additionally, the sessions are open to discuss gender in science and technology beyond this topic. A connection to other thematic fields of the conference is highly welcome (digitalization, mobility, life sciences, sustainable food systems, etc.).

Session proposals should encourage multi- and trans-disciplinary settings, and be open to theoretical as well as empirical and more practical approaches.

Sustainable Food Systems

There are growing efforts to make the food system more sustainable, and to tackle challenges related to food security, food poverty and justice, nutrition, food quality and safety, resource scarcity, loss of farmland and negative environmental impacts. To tackle these challenges, various strategies are developed at different geographies and scales. They are ranging from

local level initiatives, such as communities reasserting responsibility for food policy, to national, supra-national, and global food policies and initiatives.

We invite you to submit proposals for sessions focusing on different forms of sustainable food systems, as well as on related social practices and socioeconomic/technical processes in the production, distribution, marketing, and consumption of food. We are particularly interested on governance mechanisms, policies, and their (potential) contribution to a wider transformation towards more sustainable urban and rural areas, regions and societies. Approaches that address the empowerment of marginalized communities and people are of special interest.

Life Sciences, Biotechnology

Following decades of public debate, the application of various genetic modification techniques in microbes, plants, animals and even humans continues to be a deeply controversial issue in the EU and beyond, partly fuelled by progress in science, technological innovation, and the opening of novel application areas. Examples include GM industrial and energy crops, synthetic biology, novel breeding techniques including genome editing, gene drives, and biohacking, among others.

Session proposals should call for contributions aiming at a better understanding of the regulatory, broader policy and governance challenges of biotechnology, and/or explore strategies to manage these challenges.

Teaching STS

Teaching is an important part of academic life. Due to its diverse audiences, teaching STS courses is a highly diverse endeavour. We teach students with a great variety of disciplinary backgrounds, covering virtually all areas of natural and social sciences as well as the humanities. Those graduating from STS programmes pursue careers not only in academia, but also in the policy domain, public services and administration, as well as in the private sector. STS also has a long tradition in teaching engineers. In this way, teaching is conceived as an opportunity to engage with the shaping of technology. By making engineering students reflexive about their occupation, teaching is framed as an instrument of enhancing responsibility in research and innovation. Yet, is this still the main function of STS courses, and will that remain the case in the near future? Given that STS as a discipline is itself evolving, do we see new challenges looming on the horizon that require changes in our teaching in order to reflect the discipline’s self-understanding and academic position?

We invite colleagues in the field to submit proposals in order to address topical issues regarding teaching STS. Session proposals should specify a thematic focus and suggest a suitable format (paper presentation, panel discussion, workshop, etc.) by which a chosen theme may be disused. Issues of particular interest include, but are not limited to the following:

  • Teaching the classics: much of the classical STS literature was written in the 1980s. As fundamental as these texts are and as much as they inform recent work, classical texts need revision. Updating may include empirical evidence, conceptual flaws, response to criticism and further development of initial positions.
  • Teaching engineers: STS teaching material that appeals to engineering students is scarce. It may help if the material (e.g. a case study) relates to the particular type of engineering in a given course. It is especially challenging to keep up to date with new developments in engineering while at the same time introducing basic STS concepts. Proposed sessions are encouraged to facilitate the exchange of best practice examples.
  • Sustainability learning: promoting socio-technical change towards sustainable futures does not only require the acquisition of formal scientific knowledge, processes of change themselves can be framed as learning processes. Sessions addressing such transformational learning are especially welcome.
  • Networks: those who are members of a network or are keen on creating one are especially invited to use a session of this conference for a gathering where others can join in. Matters of concern may also be specified for such open network gatherings.