Scientific Knowledge and the Transgression of Boundaries

Call for Paper


New scientific findings challenge not only societies but also the sciences themselves to come to terms with the new knowledge. While the previous boundaries of scientific knowledge are overcome (e.g. decoding the human genome), each expansion of our knowledge brings with it new limits that lead to delineations of boundaries both within and outside the particular discipline concerned. These recurrent redefinitions of boundaries have marked the entire historical process of scientific development, for example in the form of scientific and technical achievements. However, these achievements are not only celebrated as milestones of acquired progress, but in many cases they also lead to fierce dispute in society due to their ambivalent and complex effects on social processes. Whether in the fields of the life sciences, emerging technologies or brain research, in recent times scientific discoveries have given rise to social doubts and uncertainties, questioning the boundaries in the relations between man and nature and redefining and re-examining the problems of the changing role of science and technology in the dynamics of social progress. This social effect is expressed in the increased demand for the application of a code of ethics in these fields. At the same time, an effect of transgression and removal of existing social boundaries is under way, as can be seen, for example, in the debate on the use of service robots in the care of senior citizens. The aim of the International Summer School is to study the changes in the social role of science and technology in modern societies and to analyse these changes from a variety of specialised perspectives and disciplines by using the two metaphors of “definition and transgression of boundaries”. In this context, papers from a sociological, philosophical or historical perspective are welcome as much as concrete examples from the various disciplines in the natural or engineering sciences addressing the following questions:

  • What basic epistemological conditions can be established for the transgression/definition of boundaries in science?
  • Where can we see manifestations of (new) definitions of the boundaries at the interfaces of science, technology and other social fields? What are the social effects of these shifts in boundaries?
  • What methodological approaches can be applied to identify and measure a change in the role of scientific knowledge?
  • What stances and behavioural patterns are adopted by the scientific institutions and actors in the social and disciplinary boundary fields?
  • What social problems point beyond specialised disciplinary boundaries today?
  • Which empirical objects of research cannot be addressed in a disciplinary procedure?

Papers are requested from students investigating these questions in their PhD projects.

Concept and Venue

The Summer School is part of the XXXI summer courses and XXIV European courses of Donostia-San Sebastian. The Summer School provides PhD students with the opportunity to develop their projects in an intensive working atmosphere and in an international context. Three formats will be used: “Lecture”, “Individual Presentation” and “Workshop”. At the same time, San Sebastian provides participants with the opportunity for a week of relaxed interchange, discussion and networking with experienced scientists and other PhD students.

  • "Lecture": Established scientists will present their basic positions in lectures.
  • "Individual Presentation": This format consists of a 30 minute paper, in which PhD students present their project to the plenum. A senior scientist will provide comments on the presentation, on the basis of a previously submitted paper, and the presentation will then be discussed in the plenum. PhD projects presented in this framework should already be in an advanced stage.
  • "Workshop": In the workshop, problems of relevance to the work of the PhD students will be addressed and discussed in small groups. Each group will be chaired by a scientist with practical experience in the relevant field. In this intensive format, the students will be able to submit and discuss their own concrete problems.

The language of the Summer School will be English. On successful completion of the Summer School, the graduate will receive a certificate of attendance.


Prof. Steve Fuller, University of Warwick, United Kingdom

Prof. Markus F. Peschl, University of Vienna, Austria

Prof. Hans-Jörg Rheinberger, Director of Max-Planck Institute for the History of Science, Berlin, Germany

Prof. Hans-Peter Schütt, Karlsruhe Institute of Technology, Germany


Dr. Fabrice Pataut, University of Paris, France

Dr. Hannot Rodriguez, KIT-ITAS, and Sánchez-Mazas Chair UPV/EHU

Dr. Judith Simon, Institute for Technology Assessment and Systems Analysis (KIT/ITAS), Germany

Dr. Arianna Ferrari, Institute for Technology Assessment and Systems Analysis (KIT/ITAS)



The Summer School is open to PhD students at various stages of progress on their dissertation project, and offers two forms of participation: graduates may take part either in combination with a proposed individual presentation or without their own presentation.

  • To apply for participation with individual presentation, please send us, at the latest by May 18th, 2012, an abstract of max. 3000 characters outlining your PhD project and in particular the background to the problem discussed, research questions as well as the methods and theoretical approaches to be adopted, together with a CV. Participants are expected to submit a full paper by August 1st 2012.
  • To apply as participant without individual presentation, please send us, at the latest by May 25th 2012, an abstract of max. 1500 characters briefly outlining your PhD project, together with a CV.

Please send your proposals to anna schleisiek does-not-exist.kit edu. Applicants will receive notification of acceptance by June 15th 2012.

Fees and Travel Expenses

Participation in the course is free of charge. Unfortunately, the organisers cannot cover any travel or accommodation costs. We would like to draw your attention to national sponsorship institutions like the DAAD (German Academic Exchange Service) in the case of Germany, who offer training course scholarships for students. Please contact your university’s international office for further information on scholarships available in your country.

Course Directors

Prof. Andoni Ibarra, University of the Basque Country (UPV/EHU), Spain

Bettina-Johanna Krings, Institute for Technology Assessment and Systems Analysis (KIT/ITAS), Germany

Contact - Organizing Committee

Gotthard Bechmann - Mail Homepage

Bettina-Johanna Krings - Mail Homepage

Constanze Scherz, Project Coordination - Homepage

Anna Schleisiek