FOCO: Research on and lessons from the Covid crisis

Project description

The project “FOCO: Research on and lessons from the Covid crisis” serves as an umbrella for a number of ITAS activities carried out by members of the research groups “Life, Innovation, Health, and Technology” and “Socio-Technical Futures and Policies” on the Covid pandemic and possible lessons from this crisis. This includes collaborations with external partners as well as within KIT and ITAS, which has already been reflected in the FOCO working fields. The results of other ITAS research activities such as the new project “Airborne Transmission of SARS Coronavirus – From Fundamental Science to Efficient Air Cleaning Systems (CORAERO)” will also be considered.

The background of the FOCO project includes that in view of the global crisis caused by the Covid pandemic, ITAS staff started the initiative “Research for orientation and cooperation after the COVID-19 crisis” (Rococo) in March 2020. In line with the founding call of the Rococo network, FOCO has the overarching goal of contributing to the pooling of forces in technology assessment (TA) and neighboring prospective research fields (such as futures studies) in order to develop knowledge for orientation, especially for the post-crisis period as well as for possible future crises. These research fields are currently in particular demand to help society not to neglect medium- and long-term future perspectives due to the current extraordinary challenges.

The project currently comprises seven working fields (WFs):

  1. Cooperation “Technology assessment for a changing world” with the Institute of Technology Assessment (ITA) of the Austrian Academy of Sciences (ÖAW)
  2. Cooperation with the ITAS project “Social consequences of the corona crisis – a time study
  3. Continuation of networking and pooling of knowledge resources
  4. International comparative research on the governance of the Covid pandemic
  5. Research and dialogue on conspiracy thinking and science skepticism
  6. Post-pandemic futures: needs and opportunities for systemic change

(1) The first major collaboration in which ITAS is working with an external partner out of the Rococo initiative is a collaboration with the Institute of Technology Assessment (ITA) of the Austrian Academy of Sciences on “Technology assessment for a changing world.” On the ITAS side, Julia Hahn is a key player here, and the entire FOCO team participates in the cooperation.

(2) In another ongoing, ITAS-internal cooperation, the FOCO team supports the ITAS project “Social consequences of the corona crisis – a time study”, another major ITAS activity on the crisis. Contact person in the FOCO team for WF 2 is Nora Weinberger.

(3) The current objective of the activities in WF 3 is the continuation of the networking of thematically relevant interested parties within TA and neighboring fields in which prospective work is done, which was started with the Rococo initiative. This involves both exchange and networking opportunities with regard to specific projects and topics as well as the collection of existing knowledge resources for creating more resilient societies in light of the crisis. Contact person in the FOCO team for WF 3 is Christopher Coenen.

(4) The goal of the FOCO WF 4 is international comparative research on the governance of the Covid pandemic. In this WF, there has already been cooperation with the Orient-Institut Istanbul (OII) of the Max Weber Foundation, with activities – including a workshop – focusing on Germany, Iran, and Turkey and issues such as tracing apps. Such international comparative considerations of Covid governance, including ethical aspects and the involvement of stakeholders and citizens, are to be continued in the FOCO project activities, for example, within the framework of EU cooperation. Contact persons in the FOCO team for WF 4 are Martina Baumann, Christopher Coenen, and Silvia Woll.

(5) At the time of the launch of the Rococo initiative, it was becoming apparent that in the wake of the crisis, at least in parts of the population, skepticism of science was growing along with disappointment about policymaking. In the meantime, pandemic governance has moved to the center of widespread popular conspiracy ideologies, which are not only the subject and fuel of often heated social controversies, filled with a plethora of “fake news,” but have also arrived at the center of the political system (e.g., in governments and parliaments). It is questionable whether this boom in conspiracy thinking will subside once the crisis has been overcome. The FOCO WF on this topic deals, among other things, with questions of social cohesion, the sustainability of political systems, and the social role and reputation of science and technology. Contact persons in the FOCO team for WF 5 are Christopher Coenen und Silvia Woll.

(6) The need for orientation knowledge in the context of the pandemic also goes beyond questions of how to deal with epidemics or pandemics and the health care system in that a variety of “system-relevant” needs for improvement have become apparent in the crisis and, as it were, major social “real-world experiments” are taking place. Thus, through the Covid pandemic, dramatic spotlights were also cast on other global crisis phenomena, such as the crises of democracy and of the relations between science and policy, the various ecological crises, political and poverty migration, the rise of conspiracy thinking, and, more generally, the weakening of social cohesion in many countries due to socioeconomic and cultural dislocations. The FOCO WF on this wide-ranging topic is concerned with the analysis and design of post-pandemic futures, in which the needs and opportunities for systemic change that have become apparent are also addressed with regard to new forms of cooperation and societal reflection on socio-technical change. Contact persons in the FOCO team for WF 6 are Christopher Coenen und Christoph Schneider.


For the research group “Life, Innovation, Health, and Technology”: Christopher Coenen
For the research group “Socio-Technical Futures and Policies”: Dr. Christoph Schneider


Book Chapters
Fuller, S.; Nordmann, A.; Coenen, C.; Dickel, S.; Sand, M.; Schomberg, R. von
Proactionary or Precautionary - A Debate
2023. Hermeneutics, History, and Technology : The Call of the Future. Hrsg.: A. Grunwald, 131–153, Taylor and Francis 
Book Chapters
Coenen, C.
Breaking the Spell of TINA – An Integrative Notion of Technical Progress
2021. Konfigurationen der Zeitlichkeit. Ed.: A. Friedrich, 318–323, Nomos Verlagsgesellschaft. doi:10.5771/9783748910961-318
Coenen, C.
Netzöffentlichkeit und Enthemmung : Herausforderungen für die Technikfolgenabschätzung
2021. NTA9-TA21: Digital, Direkt, Demokratisch? Technikfolgenabschätzung und die Zukunft der Demokratie (2021), Online, May 10–12, 2021 
Weinberger, N.; Winkelmann, M.; Schmieder, L.; Ruff, S.; Pfeiffer, J.; Parodi, O.; Albiez, M.
Gesellschaft im Umschwung: Folgen der Corona-Krise – eine Zeitstudie
2021. Hüttenakademietage "Studium, Beruf und Leben gestalten im Umschwung" (2021), Online, March 19–20, 2021 
Journal Articles
Hahn, J.; Schneider, C.; Baumann, M. F.; Coenen, C.; Gazsó, A.; Sinozic, T.; Sotoudeh, M.; Weinberger, N.; Woll, S.
Technology assessment for a changing world
2020. Zeitschrift für Technikfolgenabschätzung in Theorie und Praxis, 29 (3), 74–75. doi:10.14512/tatup.29.3.74Full textFull text of the publication as PDF document
Baumann, M. F.
(Dis)information and the legitimation of new technologies in the fight against (Dis)information and the legitimation of new technologies in the COVID-19 pandemic – ELSI with a focus on a health justice perspective
2020. Iterations of the COVID-19 Pandemic: Themes and Problem Spaces in Turkey, Iran and Germany, Online, 25.06.2020 : Workshop des OI Istanbul (2020), Istanbul, Turkey, June 25, 2020 Full textFull text of the publication as PDF document
Parodi, O.; Weinberger, N.; Ruff, S.; Pfeiffer, J.; Albiez, M.; Schmieder, L.; Hager, H.
Gesellschaftliche Folgen der Corona-Krise – eine Zeitstudie. Zwischenergebnisse – Stand November 2020
2020. Jahrestreffen des Netzwerk TA (2020), Online, December 10, 2020 


Dipl.-Pol. Christopher Coenen
Karlsruhe Institute of Technology (KIT)
Institute for Technology Assessment and Systems Analysis (ITAS)
P.O. Box 3640
76021 Karlsruhe

Tel.: +49 721 608-24559