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Center for Interdisciplinary Risk and Innovation Studies (ZIRIUS)

ZIRIUS is a cross-departmental research center at the University of Stuttgart. Its mission is to coordinate and conduct research and public participation projects on technoscientific innovations and responsible ways of shaping and governing them.

The Center for Interdisciplinary Risk and Innovation Studies (ZIRIUS)

... is a cross-departmental research center (Stuttgart Research Center, SCR) at the University of Stuttgart. At ZIRIUS, scholars from various disciplines, such as sociology, political science, psychology, economics or engineering, conduct research in the field of science, technology, and democratic governance for a sustainable society.

ZIRIUS studies

…the requirements and chances of socio-technical change and democratic innovation on the way towards a democratic and sustainable society.

We see socio-technical change as a set of complex and dynamic interrelations between processes of change in science, technology, and society. Technological developments themselves have to be understood as social processes embedded into social, economic and cultural contexts.

Our research focuses on questions and challenges of socio-technical change, its potential risks and implications, and the chances of responsible technoscientific governance and effective citizen participation. We study the intricate relations between scientific and technological innovations and the need to govern them in a responsible manner.

Core areas of research are technology assessment, socio-technical transformation, participatory risk assessment and innovative formats of citizen participation.

We understand technological development

…as social processes that are embedded into institutional, cultural, social, economic and political contexts. Processes of scientific, technological and social change instigate, shape, and influence and cannot be studied separately. Therefore, we conceptualize our subjects of study as socio-technical systems, processes and practices.

This brings about specific challenges for science, society and politics, that need be addressed simultaneously, namely to

  • foster the development of beneficial and innovative socio-technical systems and processes,
  • take serious public concerns about potential risks and unintended side effects,
  • respond to public demands for participation and implement these in a meaningful way,
  • shape and govern socio-technical change in a responsible, sustainable, socially just and democratic manner.

ZIRIUS confronts these challenges and provides a platform for academic and public debates on how to shape sociotechnical futures.

Against this background, the mission and the objectives of ZIRIUS are to

  • study and compare in detail the development and trajectories of socio-technical innovations in various areas within their respective contexts,
  • explore, analyze and improve formats and procedures of risk and technology assessment and citizen and stakeholder participation and evaluate the strengths and weaknesses of different formats,
  • analyze and advance the development of concepts, methods and strategies for studying effective citizen participation,
  • inform and facilitate debates on responsible ways of dealing with risk and uncertainty.

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