The following aspects characterize the scientific knowledge of ITAS:
- Practical relevance: ITAS takes up the need for advice on impacts of science and technology and compiles knowledge against the background of societal problems and discourses as well as pending technological decisions. Relevant actors are included in the process of research and communication.
- Relation to the future: As a basic principle, there is always a prospective aspect in the research work of the institute. This involves a forecast of the impacts of human actions, both in the form of foresight of socio-technological developments and the assessment of future impacts of today’s decisions.
- Normativity and sustainability: ITAS approaches the problem of technology assessment with scientific means. Together with ethical principles the general principle of sustainable development worked out by ITAS within the integrative concept constitutes a stable guideline for this.
- Design: ITAS is providing knowledge for decision and design purposes. Research results shall be bundled in alternative options for action and design and rationally assessed regarding their impacts and implications.
Regarding the object of research, work in ITAS is problem-oriented, it is organized in the form of projects and the individual research disciplines are interdisciplinary. ITAS covers the whole spectrum of systems analysis and technology assessment for policy advice and technology design with its scientific, methodological, and procedural competences. Comprehensive analyses of societal problems and technological systems generally require a combination of various analytical processes which have to be coordinated for each individual project. ITAS is characterized by the following core competences:
Thematic competence with a focus on
- a detailed understanding of technological contexts, process chains, material flows, and technological procedures in different fields of technology;
- the operationalization of sustainable development on the basis of the integrative concept of sustainability and by life cycle analyses;
- knowledge about the interactions between society and technology, e.g. on societal expectations, processes of innovation and diffusion as well as technology conflicts and technology governance.
Methodical competence which focuses on
- process chains, material flow and life cycle analyses as well as multi-criteria methods of assessment like, e.g., life cycle assessment which are based on the former;
- methods of qualitative and quantitative social research (media analyses, discourse analyses, participative methods, Delphi methods), for, e.g., foresight processes and for the empirical analysis of societal perspectives on technology;
- normative reflection methods (applied ethics, theory of sustainable development).
in the field of inter- and transdisciplinary research, especially in the transformation of societal problem diagnoses into scientific ways of dealing with, compiling and presenting the problem as well as the results according to the target group.