Participation and governance

How can conflicts over future issues in technology and science be resolved democratically?
ITAS Tema Participation and governance

We do not know what the world will look like in 20 or even 100 years. But we can observe technological developments, social conditions, and political trends and depict possible futures. This shows that future technological consequences are created in the here and now. In the interest of desired developments, we must intervene and shape already today. However, there are considerable uncertainties and doubts about the “right” paths to take, especially since hasty decisions may lead to paths that are difficult to leave again. Thinking long-term and at the same time being flexible and able to learn in the short term is extremely ambitious. Furthermore, these deliberations, whether on the design of energy policy or the progress of digitalization, must be democratic. The difference in the level of knowledge between experts and citizens alone makes this a major challenge.

At ITAS, we address this challenge with a combination of new approaches to the long-term governance of long-term processes and their participatory design. We see long-term processes such as the phasing out of nuclear energy, the final disposal of high-level radioactive waste, the introduction of the bioeconomy, or the energy transition as socio-technical challenges. Fundamental considerations on how to deal with risk and non-knowledge also have their place at ITAS.

Knowledge transfer

We consider the exchange of knowledge between research, politics, and society as a central cross-cutting activity. The scope of ITAS activities in this field ranges from on-site real-lab research (cf. section “Transformation of Society”) to citizen science projects, such as TeQfor1 and TechnoCitizenScience, and topic-specific citizens’ dialogues to policy advice for the German Bundestag and the European Parliament. We publish an open access journal, TATuP, which addresses the scientific community as well as those interested in TA.

Repository research

ITAS has been analyzing the possibilities of societal participation in the search for a final repository for many years, for example in the research association ENTRIA. Currently, the SOTEC-radio project aims at new political processes considering technical and societal aspects in the management of radioactive waste. In the Public participation in the siting procedure for a final repository project, researchers investigate a cross-generational learning procedure for public participation. Furthermore, they work together with citizens on specific questions of the repository search in the TRANSENS project.

Transformation of society

With its real-world lab District Future, the Institute is dedicated to the participatory transformation of Karlsruhe’s Oststadt. Urban society and researchers jointly test and explore new paths to sustainability. Participation – from exchange of knowledge to the empowerment of actors – is at the center of a series of transdisciplinary projects in the real-world lab, such as Climate protection – let’s dare it together, GrüneLunge im Dialog (GreenLung in dialogue), or Dual Mode Participation (DUPA). The Karlsruhe Real-world Lab for Sustainable Climate Protection (KARLA) extends the radius of the real-world lab to the whole of Karlsruhe and implements transformation experiments for more climate protection with more than 30 partners.

Global Technology Assessment

ITAS is co-initiator and coordinator of the globalTA Network, an association of 29 non-profit members worldwide. The goals of the network are to develop global frameworks and codes of conduct for the assessment of new technologies, to promote the worldwide exchange in the field of TA and to enable the anticipatory governance of technologies.

Co-Design of technologies

Together with citizens and stakeholders, ITAS develops action-oriented knowledge on co-design, for example in the field of assistive technologies or the use of renewable resources. Projects such as TERRAIN and QuartrBack aim to contribute to the demand-oriented development of human-machine interfaces for people with visual impairments and dementia, respectively. In projects such as APV-RESOLA, GECKO and FuTuReS, researchers are developing environmentally compatible paths for biomass and energy use that meet the demand for transparency and social co-determination.

Projects on the topic

To the complete project list


Further contact

Jonas Moosmüller
Public relations
Tel.: +49 721 608-26796

Publications on the topic

Smeddinck, U.; Eckhardt, A.; Kuppler, S.
Toward a repository for high-level radioactive waste: Perspectives and approaches
2023. Zeitschrift für Technikfolgenabschätzung in Theorie und Praxis, 31 (3), 11–17. doi:10.14512/tatup.31.3.11Full textFull text of the publication as PDF document
Albiez, M.; Stelzer, V.
Werde Solar-Coach
2022. Praxisbeispiele und Reflexionsimpulse zur Weiterentwicklung des Bildungsangebotes an Hochschulen. Hrsg.: Georg Winterseel, Lukas Vaupe, 102–105, netzwerk n 
Albiez, M.; Stelzer, V.; Parodi, O.; Bögel, P. M.; Trenks, H.
Energiewende nah an Mensch und Alltag
2022. Energiewirtschaftliche Tagesfragen, (6), 31–33 
Bögel, P. M.; Augenstein, K.; Levin-Keitel, M.; Upham, P.
An interdisciplinary perspective on scaling in transitions: Connecting actors and space
2022. Environmental innovation and societal transitions, 42, 170–183. doi:10.1016/j.eist.2021.12.009Full textFull text of the publication as PDF document
Cueva, J.; Almeida, I. A.; Fröhlich, K.; Dermann, A. F.; Dermann, F.; Köhler, M.; Grossmann, J.; Meier, W.; Bauhus, J.; Schröder, D.; Sardemann, G.; Thomas, C.; Carnicero, A. R.; Saha, S.
Synergies and tradeoffs in ecosystem services from urban and peri-urban forests and their implication to sustainable city design and planning
2022. Sustainable cities and society, 82, 103903. doi:10.1016/j.scs.2022.103903
Fritz, H.; Holst, J.; Lang, D. J.; Nölting, B.; Parodi, O.; Potthast, T.; Singer-Brodowski, M.
Transformationspfade für eine Kultur der Nachhaltigkeit an deutschen Hochschulen
2022. Gaia, 31 (4), 254 – 256 
Grunwald, A.
Endlagersuche im selbsthinterfragenden Verfahren – von der Endlager-Kommission zum Nationalen Begleitgremium
2022. Das „lernende“ Standortauswahlverfahren für ein Endlager radioaktiver Abfälle : Interdisziplinäre Beiträge. Hrsg.: K-J. Röhlig, 17–28, Berliner Wissenschafts-Verlag (BWV) 
Grunwald, A.
Die Endlagerkommission des Deutschen Bundestages: Prozess- und Endlagermonitoring
2022. Hocke, Peter; Kuppler, Sophie; Smeddinck, Ulrich; Hassel, Thomas (Hg.): Technical Monitoring and Long-Term Governance of Nuclear Waste. Hrsg.: P. Hocke, 81–94, Nomos Verlagsgesellschaft 
Grunwald, A.
The German case for dealing with high-level radioactive waste: taking a socio-technical approach to address a socio-technical problem – chances and risks
2022. Nuclear Waste: Management, disposal and governance. Ed.: K.-J. Röhling, Article no: 16, Institute of Physics Publishing Ltd (IOP Publishing Ltd). doi:10.1088/978-0-7503-3095-4ch16
Hocke, P.; Kuppler, S.; Smeddinck, U.; Hassel, T. (Eds.)
Technical Monitoring and Long-term Governance of Nuclear Waste
2022. Nomos Verlagsgesellschaft 
Kuppler, S.; Hocke, P.; Smeddinck, U.; Hassel, T.
Technical monitoring and long-term governance : an introduction
2022. Technical Monitoring and Long-Term Governance of Nuclear Waste. Ed.: P. Hocke, 7–20 
Rösch, C.; Kuppler, S.; Benighaus, C.; Schill, E.
Leitplanken für Tiefengeothermie-Anlagen
Saha, S.; Matzarakis, A.; Albrecht, A.; Fricke, A.; Collet, F.; Almeida, I.; Hirsch, M.; Gangwisch, M.; Cueva-Giron, J. M.; Köhler, M.; Beckmann-Wübbelt, A.; Schobert, M.; Fröhlich, K.; Trenks, H.; Parodi, O.; Böddeker, H.; Kienzler, U.; Reuter, M.
Inter- and transdisciplinary research approaches to increase the resilience of urban and peri-urban forests (UPFs) to climate change impacts - lessons learned from the first phase of the “GreenLung” (“GrüneLunge”) project, Germany
2022. UFFU 2022 : International Conference Leuven : Urban Forests, Forest Urbanisms, and Global Warming: Developing Greener, Cooler and more Resilient Cities : Book of Abstracts, Katholieke Universiteit Leuven (KU Leuven)