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Interdisciplinary Risk Research

Interdisciplinary Risk Research
Project team:

Büscher, Christian (Project leader); Gotthard Bechmann; Carsten Orwat


BMBF in the case of START; Helmholtz-Gemeinschaft in the case of "Risk-Habitat Megacity"; in-house project

Start date:


End date:


Research group:

Knowledge society and knowledge policy

Project description

For years, interdisciplinary risk research integrating physical- and social scientific observations is being demanded. Today, we can note that this request is in a state of "paradigmatic" paralysis. On the one hand, risk assessment that is instructed by physical and engineering sciences relies on risk calculations based on probability. On the other hand, social sciences offer research on individual risk perception (the so-called "psychometric paradigm") in order to explain the irrational behavior of affected persons and non-professionals. From this kind of complementarity in risk research – the disciplines inform each other – always arises the idea to practice risk communication as a sort of enlightenment. The aim then is acceptance.

This development has lost sight of the fact that there are possibilities of cognitive integration of different disciplines: This means to collectively research scientific problems of social-, physical- and engineering sciences. The starting point is the analysis of complex systems and processes of self-organization and -strengthening. This approach, mostly known from cybernetics, is applied today especially in the field of high-technology research (Perrow, La Porte), climate research (Lovelock, Schellnhuber) and finance research (Krugman, Willke), This is an attempt to explain how conditions that lead to self-endangerment are being determined already in the processes of reproduction of complex social, technical and natural systems. In this sense, we talk about "systemic risks" or about "mechanisms of risk production". Our target is to evaluate this research in order to generate our own theoretical and methodical means for future research projects. This endeavor began within the START project and the project "Risk Habitat Megacity" performed in co-operation with different partners (Helmholtz-Gemeinschaft, KI, ISOE). This line of research will be continued and strengthened – theoretically and conceptionally.



Dr. phil. Christian Büscher
Karlsruhe Institute of Technology (KIT)
Institute for Technology Assessment and Systems Analysis (ITAS)
P.O. Box 3640
76021 Karlsruhe

Tel.: +49 721 608-23181