Governance, Innovation and Sustainability

Overall description
In recent decades, decision-makers and publics alike have realized that contemporary societies are confronted with a number of serious challenges such as climate change, food security, health, and social and environmental justice. While it is all but certain what the future of humanity will look like, even whether it will survive and be able to find ways of long-term sustainable development, it is quite clear that governance and innovation will be at the core of how societies deal with the challenges they are facing. This ESST specialization will thus focus on interrelationships between science, technology and innovation, governance, and sustainability. It will combine STS with other social science perspectives and explore selected case-studies in-depth.









The notion of governance reflects a fundamental shift in how the power of national governments is perceived, i.e., that by and large decision-making capacities have been rearranged across levels (e.g. local, regional, national, supra- and international levels) and across domains of society (e.g., the state, industry and civil society). Rather than representing predetermined orders, governance arrangements are subject to more or less dynamic change.

As to science and technology (S&T), topics of particular interest concern the governance of new and emerging technologies (such as information and communication technology, biotechnology and nanotechnology): How are innovations generated, including the social conditions of innovativeness? How are health, environmental and other safety or security risks managed? How are intellectual property rights (in particular patents) awarded? How are ethical concerns accounted for? And how do controversies around S&T de-/legitimize particular innovations and/or institutions?

Another key topic relates to the sustainable transformation of infrastructures (such as energy production and distribution, building, urban development or transportation/mobility) which are already embedded in society and everyday life: How can infrastructures be changed effectively and efficiently, i.e., without disrupting their functions and while maintaining or improving their affordability and accessibility? How can sectoral infrastructures be transformed without negatively affecting other sectors? How can infrastructure innovations account for future social, environmental and economic needs/challenges (an issue that also applies to new and emerging fields of S&T)?

Cross-cutting topics refer to notions of anticipatory, reflexive and participatory governance, including notions of responsible research and innovation (RRI) which has gained major prominence through the European Union’s current framework programme Horizon 2020. Key elements of these approaches relate to foresight, interdisciplinary knowledge integration and transdisciplinary public engagement. Respective empirical cases can be found with regard to both emerging and infrastructure technologies.

Another cross-cutting topic concerns the science-policy nexus, i.e. the configuration of knowledge and decision-making in capitalist democracies (e.g., in risk management) and in international regimes (e.g., climate change policy). The role of emerging new technologies in dealing with climate change consequences, such as climate engineering, will also be addressed along with questions pertaining to who should decide about their potential development and use – and on what basis.

Finally, how can global challenges be taken as opportunities for new approaches to cross-sectoral innovations that are pursued together with sustainable developments goals (SDGs) (e.g., a post-fossil bioeconomy)?

Schedule of introductory course

The ESST specialization consists of the course “governance, innovation and sustainability” (8 ECTS). As in the previous year, it will be offered by Daniel Barben and Barbara Grimpe. The course introduces key concepts, explores exemplary case studies and covers some core literature (see below). It is taught using a combination of lectures, student presentations, plenary discussions and group work. While we offer a significant range of empirical cases, we are open to taking on board topics suggested by students.

The language of instruction is English. The classes are taught from the beginning of March to mid-April. During the rest of the time students work on their thesis, supervised by staff from Alpen-Adria-Universität Klagenfurt. During this time students may also attend a work-in-progress seminar that allows for exchange among students during thesis writing and offers additional support from faculty beyond the student-supervisor relationship (optional).

The core themes of the course are as follows:

(1) Introduction to theories on and empirical analysis of governance

  • Changes in state organisation: From “government” to “governance”
  • Governance in “vertical” and “horizontal differentiation” of society (e.g., multi-level and distributed modes of governance, including different types of participatory governance)

(2) Governance of new and emerging technologies

  • Innovation (including social innovation)
  • Risk management
  • Intellectual property
  • Ethics
  • Public understanding of S&T and acceptance politics

Exemplary cases:

  • Information and communication technology
  • Biotechnology
  • Nanotechnology

(3) Governance of infrastructural and economic transformations

  • Infrastructures and society
  • Technology and cross-sectoral innovation

Exemplary cases:

  • Energy systems transformation
  • Sustainable building and urban development
  • Bioeconomy strategies

(4) Global challenges and governance

  • Global assessments
  • International policy-making, global policy agendas
  • Meeting global challenges through innovation

Exemplary cases:

  • Climate change and climate engineering
  • Biodiversity
  • Sustainable development goals
  • European Union’s “grand societal challenges” in Horizon 2020

(5) Cross-cutting issues

  • Notions of anticipatory, reflexive and participatory governance, including notions of responsible research and innovation
  • Science-policy nexus: Science advice, regulatory science, and policy making

(6) Conclusions and outlook

  • Towards designing a research project/thesis

Core Literature (subject to change)

Barben, Daniel, Erik Fisher, Cynthia Selin, David H. Guston (2008): Anticipatory Governance of Nanotechnology: Foresight, Engagement, and Integration. In: Edward J. Hackett, Olga Amsterdamska, Michael E. Lynch, Judy Wajcman (Eds.): Handbook of Science and Technology Studies, Third Edition. Cambridge, Mass.: MIT Press, 979-1000.

Bora, Alfons, Heiko Hausendorf (2006): Participatory science governance revisited: normative expectations versus empirical evidence. In: Science and Public Policy 33(7): 478–488.

El-Chichakli, Beate, Joachim von Braun, Christine Lang, Daniel Barben, Jim Philp (2016): Five cornerstones of a global bioeconomy. In: Nature, 535, 221–223 (14 July) doi: 10.1038/535221a,,

Hagendijk, Rob, Alan Irwin (2006): Public Deliberation and Governance: Engaging with Science and Technology in Contemporary Europe. In: Minerva 05, 44(2):167-184

Hulme, Mike; Mahony, Martin (2010): Climate change: What do we know about the IPCC? In: Progress in Physical Geography 34 (5), S. 705–718

Jasanoff, Sheila (2007): Designs on Nature: Science and Democracy in Europe and the United States. Princeton, N.J.: Princeton University Press

Rip, Arie (2001): Contributions from Social Studies of Science and Constructive Technology Assessment. In: Andrew Stirling (ed.), On Science and Precaution in the Management of Technological Risk. Volume II. Case Studies. Sevilla: Institute for Prospective Technology Studies (European Commission Joint Research Centre), pp. 94-122.

Saille, Stevienna de; Medvecky, Fabien (2016): Innovation for a steady state. A case for responsible stagnation. In: Economy and Society 45 (1), S. 1–23.

Star, Susan L. (1999): The ethnography of infrastructure. In:American Behavioral Scientist 43, pp. 377-391

Stilgoe, Jack, Richard Owen, Phil Macnaghten (2013): Developing a framework for responsible innovation. In: Research Policy 42, 1568–1580. doi:10.1016/j.respol.2013.05.008

Stirling, Andrew, Steve Rayner (2016): Governing geoengineering: lessons, syndromes, responses. In: Blackstock, Jason, Miller, Clark and Rayner, Steve (eds.), Geoengineering our climate? Ethics, politics and governance. The Earthscan science in society series. Routledge, London. ISBN 9781849713740 (in Press)

Stirling, Andy (2014): Transforming power: social science and the politics of energy choices. In: Energy Research & Social Science, 1. pp. 83-95.

Voß, Jan-Peter and Bornemann, Basil (2011): The Politics of Reflexive Governance: Challenges for Designing Adaptive Management and Transition Management. In: Ecology and Society 16, 9.

Name and contact details of specialisation coordinator:

Prof. Daniel Barben

Tel: +43 643 2700 6141,