Technology, Society & Governance in the 21st century

Farewell Symposium Stefan Kuhlmann

University of Twente, 24 March 2022

Key note speakers of the Symposium were Pierre-Benoit Joly, INRAE/LISIS (Paris/Toulouse); Annalisa Pelizza, University of Bologna; Jakob Edler, Fraunhofer Inst. Systems & Innovation Research (ISI, Karlsruhe);  Gonzalo Ordoñez Matamoros, Univ. Externado de Colombia (Bogota); Stefan Kuhlmann (University of Twente, STePS).

Speakers and discussions addressed pressing research and practical issues of technology, society and governance in the 21st century. These include the need to establish a new political sociology of science and innovation, to develop different modes of governance in times of digitized information systems and of disruptive socio-economic transformation, while deploying a truly global perspective, in particular on the governance of technology and innovation in the Global South.

A video of the full programme is available here: Farewell Symposium Kuhlmann March 24 2022.

Stefan Kuhlmann
Panel: Esther Turnhout, Klaasjan Visscher, Kornelia Konrad, Barend van der Meulen, Ewert Aukes

Stefan Kuhlmann: Reflections and thanks

Many thanks for all the great contributions and inspiring discussions today! Let me, at the end of this journey, now briefly share with you a few reflections, followed by some words of thank.  

Almost 15 years ago I was standing at this very place, in this Amphitheatre, to deliver my inaugural speech as professor and chair-holder of Science, Technology and Society at the UT. A lot has happened since.

Far earlier, in Autumn 1979, I found my first employment as junior researcher at the University of Kassel. There we studied empirically what then was called “informatization of public administration” – progress or risk? Tough debates at the time. In the early 1980s, myself and others were motivated by a combination of curiosity, scepticism and engagement (with ingredients of irony) – both as an individual attitude and as an intellectual way of working in social sciences. This sceptical-engaged way of working felt as a release from earlier and ongoing ideological and political-economic fights, where one had to position oneself vis-à-vis various Marxist concepts of class struggle, vis-à-vis the upcoming neoliberalism, vis-à-vis obvious weaknesses of representative democracy, and also in view of emerging environmentalist claims.

This sceptical-engaged way of working resembled much of the relativist and constructivist analysis of science and technological innovation as co-evolution of society, technology and institutions, in the field of Social Studies of Science and Technology (STS). In the 1980s STS were emerging at different, loosely coupled places in Europe and North America, almost simultaneously.  

Since the early 1990s I myself focussed on the “governance” of science, technology and innovation. Some people consider Governance as a neo-liberal concept. Well, we have used “governance” rather as a sceptical-engaged research heuristic (a pair of lenses) to study the actual expectations of stakeholders, and the options and limitations for consciously and realistically shaping science and technology in society. In doing this, I tended to avoid substantive normative and political claims, which would organise the world in good and bad intentions.

Rather I was and I am interested in procedural approaches:

  • What processes would help societal stakeholders and political actors to understand their respective room for manoeuvre to act and shape?
  • How can we help them to reflect diverging stakeholder views and learn to achieve desirable effects?

Key procedural concepts include “Strategic Intelligence” for policymaking; and here in Twente Constructive Technology Assessment (CTA); later we developed principles of procedural “meta-governance”, and more. I have no time today to explain these concepts in more detail.
Anyhow, I am glad that I had the chance to help develop, apply and test these reflection- and learning-based approaches in many practical and political settings in Europe and beyond, as researcher, teacher and policy advisor. One could say, as a dancer in the innovation policy dance, the metaphor that I had used in my inaugural speech 2007.

Now, looking back on several decades I see this sceptical-engaged way of working – not disappearing!  But it is becoming relativized in Social Sciences. Normative, political claims are moving to the foreground, in part for good reasons, I would say. There are a number of future challenges that need to be more convincingly addressed by STS in research and education, conceptually and normatively:

  • the need to (re)politicize STS by addressing power and politics (Pierre-Benoit has talked about this challenge);
  • the need to understand the incredible political and economic power, the performativity, the options and the risks of computer-based, digitized governance across societal domains, (Annalisa has addressed this challenge);
  • the need to combine local and global options for governing technological, sustainable und inclusive innovation, with a better understanding of the specific conditions in the Global South (Gonzalo has addressed this challenge);
  • the need to push ongoing socio-technical transformations in desired, in particular climate-neutral directions, with conscious and learning-based modes of policy intervention (Jakob has addressed this challenge).
  • the need  to develop and perform sceptical-engaged modes of inspiring and educating students (the STePS panel has addressed this challenge).

Now, while we are discussing this in a safe and comfortable university environment, less than 1500 kilometres from here Ukrainian cities are bombed and citizens killed! The ongoing deadly crusade of Putin and his entourage in Ukraine is a shock, also for the world of STS. We need to spend even more attention to concepts of power in STS, including also the emergence and role of violence. For too long, many STS works tended to de-politicize their subject of research (also through irony) – that holds also for parts of my own research and publications! 

Today our speakers have hinted to the political dimensions of STS, and referred to seminal works in this respect (think of Sheila Jasanoff, Scott Frickel & Kelly Moore, Bruno Latour, Dominique Pestre, Sergio Sismondo, to drop just a few names). Still, the subject index of the 2017 Handbook of STS has not even the entries “power” and “violence”.  So, do we have an elaborated conceptual understanding of “power” and “violence” in STS?

  1. Modes and manifestations of power; processes of exercising power; actors and institutions stabilising power relations; knowledge-based power; technologies and instruments of power; politics and power; separating lines between legitimate and illegitimate power;  …?
  2. What about our conceptual approaches to modes and roles of human violence in socio-technological development? Sure, feminist and post-colonial studies have helped a lot to understand both open and masked modes of structural violence. Yet, is this sufficient to understand and shape knowledge and technological innovation in aggressive political and societal environments?

To sum up: In STS we need to deconstruct the institutionalisation of violent power in technological and informational arrangements (physical and mental), without a priori verdicts about good or bad. This understanding could help us to emancipate from such arrangements. 

Now some words of thank:

I am extremely grateful for having had the chance to connect to and enjoy the world-class interdisciplinary scientific and intellectual culture in the Netherlands, for many years, in different positions and roles. Way back in the 1980s I met and worked with Ignace Snellen on modes of digitisation of public administrations (Tilburg; Rotterdam). In the 1990s I worked with Ben Dankbaar  on issues of innovation policy (Maastricht; Nijmegen). I discussed with Ruud Smits (TNO; Utrecht) and Arie Rip (UT) on Technology Assessment, innovation policy and policy evaluation. Ruud brought me in 2001 to Utrecht University as part-time professor at the Copernicus Institute. And in 2006 Arie convinced me to fully move to the University of Twente.
The rich interdisciplinary tradition in the Netherlands is best exemplified in the Graduate Research School of Science, Technology and Modern Culture (WTMC), a collective effort of Dutch scholars at many universities and research institutes. WTMC originates from the late 1980s. I had the pleasure to follow their activities since my arrival in Utrecht in the early 2000s. When in 2018 the University of Twente became again the host organisation of WTMC, I got the chance to work as Academic Director of the school until 2021 – for me that was a great honour and a lot of fun! And it included fantastic collaboration with Paul Wouters, Harro van Lente, Govert Valkenburg, Bernike Pasveer, Anne Beaulieu, Andreas Weber, and Elize Schiweck (and many more).

Many thanks go also to colleagues at the Fraunhofer Institute for Systems and Innovation Research, where I have worked for 18 years. ISI was a good place to experiment with reflection- and learning-based approaches to policy-design and making. Jakob, please convey my regards to your colleagues, maybe we see each other at ISI’s 50th anniversary in Autumn this year.

I still have a good remembrance of my colleagues at the University of Kassel in the 1980s. Without their collaboration I would not have found my way into the domain of STS and policy studies.

Of course I want to thank all my UT colleagues, in particular of the STePS group and in the wider Department Technology, Policy, Society (TPS) for all their constructive and inspiring collaboration, there are too many faces and names to be mentioned individually!
Particular thanks go to Elize, our management assistant, for her highly committed, friendly and humorous work!

Last but not certainly not least, I wish to warmly thank my partner Eva – my intellectual and emotional sparring partner for so many years! Our two kids David Elias and Lou had to bear with us, while they managed to grow up as unique personalities.


The New Protocol for Science Diplomacy

Science Diplomacy has the potential to play a considerable role in future international collaborations intent on tackling societal challenges. This ambition cannot be achieved by positioning science diplomacy as a soft power to be utilized by single countries to further their interests. Tackling societal challenges is a cosmopolitan ambition and common, shared interest that requires collective action. The actions required need to be organized by the domain of science, technology and innovation in close collaboration with foreign policymakers. For these cross-boundary efforts an interaction space has to be created that adheres to certain ground rules. The New Protocol for Science Diplomacy provides a set of 12 principles geared towards creating this interaction space.

You can access the 12 principles here.

The “New Protocol for Science Diplomacy” has been developed by S4D4C consortium members Ewert Aukes, Gonzalo Ordóñez-Matamoros, Stefan Kuhlmann, and Sanaz Honarmand Ebrahimi from University of Twente, the Netherlands.

On the background page of you will find everything you need to know about the Protocol what it is, how we developed it, and what use you can make of it.

The New Protocol is also contextualized in our Policy Brief accessible here.

Towards effective science diplomacy practice

S4D4C Policy Brief 4.1 cover

Ewert Aukes, Gonzalo Ordóñez-Matamoros, Stefan Kuhlmann, and Sanaz Honarmand-Ebrahimi have published a policy brief focusing on key premises for the development of effective governance mechanisms for science diplomacy.

This Policy Brief is a product of the European H2020 funded project S4D4C.

Grand societal challenges require collective action within and across national borders. Effective action is expected from Europe and it requires targeted inter-governmental and diplomatic efforts and the mobilization of appropriate scientific knowledge. Science Diplomacy is a promising mechanism to address these grand societal challenges. We understand science diplomacy generally as collaborations between stakeholders from science, policy and diplomacy, which involve various governmental or diplomatic organizations as well as non-governmental scientific organizations. The complexity arising from the existing variety of mechanisms and stakeholders precludes a clear-cut definition of who should ‘do’ science diplomacy in what way. And many stakeholders that could be labelled ‘science diplomacy organization’ would not do so themselves. This presents challenges for organizing the governance of science diplomacy. We suggest here that governing mechanisms for science diplomacy in Europe must observe four premises to be effective. These premises include (a) grand societal challenges require both diplomatic efforts and science-based knowledge, (b) science-based knowledge production is diverse and evolving, (c) diplomacy means reconciling a variety of interests, and (d) Science Diplomacy requires combined science and diplomacy literacy. These premises set the stage for the development of governance mechanisms for Science Diplomacy. Taken seriously, they lead to governance practices that do not pre-define what Science Diplomacy is, but give interested stakeholders the guidance they need to develop effective Science Diplomacy mechanisms themselves. This will be presented in a later policy recommendation brief.

The S4D4C project, together with its sister project InsSciDE, provides conceptual and practical tools that can help decision-makers continue to build a visible and effective science diplomacy in the European Union and beyond.

–>>>> DOWNLOAD THE project’s policy brief HERE!

Tentative governance of emerging science and technology

Kuhlmann et al RP 2019

By Stefan Kuhlmann, Peter Stegmaier and Kornelia Konrad

2019 we published an Introduction (open access) and Special Section in the journal Research Policy.

While actors in public policy, industry, or civil society organisations attempting to ‘govern’ Emerging Science and Technology (EST) may try to promote desired effects, often the actor constellations and institutional arrangements, deliberations and decision-making are too complex to achieve the aims directly. Actors cannot be sure whether classical-modernist policy practices or new deliberative ones are likely to prove more effective. No easy solutions are in sight. Actors often seem to undertake ’explorative’, ‘underdetermined’ or even ‘ad hoc’ movements in a search for the right constellations and opportunities, strategies and breakthroughs.

Our conceptual Introduction and the Special Section examine different modes of ‘tentative governance’ of EST. The notion of tentative governance appears particularly relevant in the case of EST, given all the uncertainties and dynamics related to the scientific base, technologies, possible innovations, societal benefits and potential risks. While one may argue that such uncertainties are not peculiar to EST, it is nevertheless apparent that in industry, society and public policy the level of awareness of these uncertainties has increased, largely as a result of experiences with former emerging technologies (e.g. genetically modified organisms, nuclear technology). Governance is ‘tentative’ when public and private interventions are designed as a dynamic process that is prudent and preliminary rather than assertive and persistent. Tentative governance typically aims at creating spaces for probing and learning instead of stipulating definitive targets.

Our paper suggests a heuristic to understand and position ‘tentative governance’. One main finding is that the inherent contingency of EST requires rather tentative approaches to governance, though often in combination with more definitive modes of governance, with the exact mixture involving a balancing act.

The articles of the Special Section include:

Kuhlmann, S., Stegmaier, P., Konrad, K., The tentative governance of emerging science and technology—A conceptual introduction (open access)

Budde, B., Konrad, K., Tentative governing of fuel cell innovation in a dynamic network of expectations

Hopkins, M.M., Crane, P., Nightingale, P., Baden-Fuller, C., Moving from non-interventionism to industrial strategy: The roles of tentative and definitive governance in support of the UK biotech sector

Lyall, C., Tait, J., Beyond the limits to governance: new rules of engagement for the tentative governance of the life sciences

Fisher, E., Governing with ambivalence: the tentative origins of socio-technical integration

Review of Danish Research and Innovation System

Review Innovation Policy Denmark

Ten steps, and a leap forward: taking Danish innovation to the next level – says a peer review panel of Christian Ketels, Margareta Drzeniek Hanouz, Jackie Hunter, Stefan Kuhlmann, Tony Raven, Pieter Heringa, Uri Gabai, Göran Marklund and Christopher Palmberg.

Abstract: “Denmark is among Europe’s innovation leaders, with a strong science base, high overall investments in R&D activities, and particular strengths in a range of fields. While this position is under no immediate threat, this review finds Denmark failing to fully leverage its strengths and to adjust to a changing global innovation landscape. The review recommends a number of specific changes – evolving the role of particular parts of the Danish innovation system, enhancing the coordination across them, and adding particular new features. More importantly, however, the review suggests a broad-based effort to create an overarching Danish innovation strategy, and an institutional architecture to underpin it. The lack of such an integrating structure has left the Danish system perform below its potential, despite good or even excellent performance in individual parts. Filling this gap promises significant rewards but will take strong political will beyond one ministry.”

One potential anchor for Denmark’s future vision are the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). There is no doubt that public and private investment in initiatives directed at attaining SDGs is increasing which creates demand for innovative solutions (Report p. 111).

This Peer review of the Danish science and innovation system delivers on a commitment made by the Danish Ministry of Higher Education and Science (MHES) in the 2017 strategy for research and innovation. It was conducted by a panel of international peers and independent subject matter experts under the European Commission’s Horizon 2020 Policy Support Facility (PSF).

Handbook on Science and Public Policy

Handbook cover_1

Dagmar Simon, Stefan Kuhlmann, Julia Stamm and Weert Canzler have edited a Handbook on Science and Public Policy

The handbook assembles state-of-the-art insights into the co-evolutionary and precarious relations between science and public policy. Beyond this, it also offers a fresh outlook on emerging challenges for science (including technology and innovation) in changing societies, and related policy requirements, as well as the challenges for public policy in view of science-driven economic, societal, and cultural changes. In short, this book deals with science as a policy-triggered project as well as public policy as a science-driven venture.

The “Introduction Science and public policy – relations in flux” can be downloaded.



Twente Approach to Engaged Science, Technology and Policy Studies

1_Univ TwenteScience, Technology and Innovation (STI) generate sites for articulation, contestation, navigation, negotiation, and change in modern societies. STI Studies aim to understand and conceptualize the material, social, intellectual, political and moral dynamics of STI in society. Some STI Studies groups also get involved in the active shaping of technology and innovation. Our department of Science, Technology, and Policy Studies (STePS) at the University of Twente (UT), the Netherlands, ventures to combine theory, critical analysis and active intervention in real-world spaces for articulation and negotiation.

Read our article “Engaged Science, Technology and Policy Studies: The Twente Approach”, by Kuhlmann, S., Konrad, K. E. & Roberts, L. L., Nov 2017, EASST review, 36/3

Handbook Innovation Governance for Emerging Economies

Kuhlmann, S. & Ordóñez-Matamoros, G. (eds.) (2017): Research Handbook on Innovation Governance for Emerging Economies: Towards Better Models, Cheltenham, UK (Edward Elgar), | Elgaronline et al case

Although in recent years some emerging economies have improved their performance in terms of R&D investment, outputs and innovative capacity, these countries are still blighted by extreme poverty, inequality and social exclusion. Hence, emerging countries are exposed to conditions which differ quite substantially from the dominant OECD model of innovation policy for development and welfare. This Handbook contributes to the debate by looking at how innovation theory, policy and practice interact, and explains different types of configurations in countries that are characterized by two contrasting but mutually reinforcing features: systemic failure and resourcefulness. Focusing on innovation governance and public policies, it aims to understand related governance failures and to explore options for alternative, more efficient approaches.