Value Isobars - The Landscape and Isobars of European Values in Relation to Science and New Technology - was an EU-financed project coordinated by UiB.
The starting point of the Value Isobars project has been the observation that a number of important debates centering around questions of identity and visions for future development have turned to the issue of values as guiding principles. This holds true not only for current debates about European identity, but also in particular for controversies about contested science and technology (S&T).
Furthermore, the project partners have noted that scholarly contributions pertaining to the identification of fundamental values in our societies not only are scattered between several disciplines, but also to a significant extent provide a confusing picture in regard to their potential policy implications.
Good governance of S&T as it usually is understood and practiced may still be short on precisely those factors that prepare the ground for socially sustainable innovations.
The project thus calls for value-informed governance based on a better understanding of S&T related values of different societal groups and sectors, including more focus on ordinary citizens and identification of actual and potential value conflicts.
The goal of this project was to provide the blueprints for a value-based and value-informed new and flexible governance of the science-society relation in Europe. Furthermore, the study identified necessary research tasks in order to move from a generic understanding of value-based and value-informed governance to more specific mechanisms of governance that improve current practice.
Emerging biotechnologies with dual use problematic and security technologies (biometrics) served as pilots to test the validity of the framework.
The key research challenges were:
- Understanding the very concept of social/ethical values in both socio-political and philosophical respect
- Improving the methodology for the study of values
- Identifying innovative mechanisms of platforms for value-based dialogue in civil society and citizen consultation
- Assessing the potential of legal and regulatory instruments, including soft-law, to provide value-oriented framework orientation for scientific and technological development.
The working hypothesis was that social values, though often alluded to, may constitute a crucial dimension that has not yet been fully included in governance of science and technology. The project was therefore designed around three main goals:
(i) To provide a blueprint for a value-based and value-informed new and flexible governance of the science-society relation in Europe.
(ii) To provide concrete guidance on implementation issues in relation to improved governance schemes.
(iii) To identify necessary research tasks in order to move from a generic understanding of value-based and value-informed governance to more specific mechanisms of governance that improve current practice.
To this end, there were a number of sub-goals addressed in this study:
i. The conceptions of the nature and the problematic heterogeneity of social values and the underlying conceptual differences across various disciplines in the humanities, the social sciences and, more and more, also the natural sciences are to be reviewed and critically discussed in order to provide a theoretical framework for further study.
ii. The relation between preferences, values and norms is to be analyzed, and the basic causal or other dynamic interactions with emergent attitudes are to be sketched in order to identify potential drivers of science and technology attitudes.
iii. Methodological approaches to the empirical mapping of existing social values, especially in regard to science and technology, are to be reviewed and critically discussed in order to provide a more reliable and pertinent mapping of social values in relation to science and technology issues in European publics.
iv. Dominant value sets with special importance for the S&T attitudes of the publics are to be identified among social values.
v. Participatory approaches and existing platforms of science and society dialogue are to be reviewed and critically discussed in regard to their potential contribution and role in eliciting and activating value-based attitudes of publics in pro-active technology assessments and science policy. This relates both to consensus-oriented “value-negotiations” as well as to clear-cut “value-conflicts” and their implications.
vi. An innovative participatory approach that is attentive to social values and carries the potential to develop socially robust outlines and agendas of S&T is to be developed, thereby linking perspectives from social sciences and ethics, which are often being treated completely separately.
vii. Legal, regulatory and other mechanisms, including soft-law (like guidelines), are to reviewed and critically discussed in regard to their potential to stimulate value-based and value-informed flexible governance and to respond to existing value isobars in European publics.
viii. The basic emergent governance framework is to be tested through two cases: dual-use biotechnologies and security technologies (biometrics in particular). They shall serve as pilot studies for more detailed follow-up research.
In sum, the project aimed at the scholarly clarification of essential aspects tied to the understanding of social values, as perceived from different disciplinary angles, including a philosophical / sociological / political science dimension, a social psychology dimension, a legal dimension and a science-society / participatory dimension. Furthermore, it aimed at knitting these different insights together in a blueprint for a value-informed governance of S&T, including concrete proposals how to implement these insights in actual practice. Finally, the project aimed at pointing to more specific research needs and knowledge gaps related to social values in S&T.
Understanding of "governance" and "values"
Good governance needs to inform the policies pertaining to S&T. The White Paper on European Governance explicitly affirms “good governance” by elaborating the five principles of openness, participation, accountability, effectiveness, coherence (EC Commission 2009: 8/9). It is generally understood that norms such as openness or participation are central cornerstones for a more legitimate and just (“good”) governance. Yet, good governance, even with these specifications, may still be short on precisely those factors that prepare the ground for socially sustainable innovations, i.e. short on the value dimensions. The project thus calls for value-informed governance based on a better understanding of S&T related values of different societal groups and sectors, including more focus on ordinary citizens and identification of actual and potential value conflicts.
The project Value Isobars has worked on the assumption that a good grasp of social values, i.e. values that are either endorsed by some or disputed among several sectors of society, is a precondition for coming to terms with what people refer to when asking for more explicit considerations of ethical aspects (in general: the ELSI part) of new S&T. The project partners did not find a generally accepted definition of the term ‘values’ or ‘social values’ in the scholarly literature. The project partners have also noted that scholarly contributions pertaining to the identification of fundamental values in our societies not only are scattered between several disciplines, but also to a significant extent provide a confusing picture in regard to their potential policy implications. This can certainly be seen in the field of S&T policies, as exemplified by the debates about the genetic modification of crops and food where the focus has moved from risks to ethics.
The project has therefore adopted a working definition, on the basis of which the different work-packages have performed their work:
Values are reference points for evaluating something as positive or negative. Values are rationally and emotionally binding, giving long-term orientation and motivation for action. Values result from valuation processes and vice versa, hence they ‘originate’ in a dynamic dialectic.
It is important not to confuse values with attitudes or preferences because in the above mentioned sense, values are more basic. At the same time, values do not directly lead to action commanding norms and regulations, yet individuals and social groups feel bound to their values. This means that values and value governance open a dynamic, pluralistic as well as somewhat opaque and conflicting space of possible norms for action.
While many scholars affirm that values are basic for norms, attitudes and preferences, little is done to explicate this insight into policy or even into empirical research. Value Isobars set out to amend this lack and provide some tentative insight on the possible role and function in governance of science and technology. One can make the claim that values are one of the key and unexplored parameters responsible for changing attitudes on science and technology.
WP1 was to deal with conceptual issues, and particularly analyzing the value concept. Eberhard Karls Universität Tübingen, Centre for Ethics was responsible for WP1.
WP2 was to deal with empirical insights and methods on social values: Value methods. London School of Economics and Political Science (LSE), Methodology Institute was responsible for WP2.
WP3 was to deal with participatory tools that can be employed to improve the societal dialogue about value issues in science and technology: Value dialogues. dialog<>gentechnik (Austria) was responsible for WP2.
WP4 was to deal with the legal aspects that surround the governance of S&T and EC science policy: Values and regulations. Centro de Estudos sobre a Mudança Socioeconómica (DINÂMIA), Portugal was responsible for this WP.
WP5 was to deal with the two case studies that provided the concrete background for the deliberations on governance of S&T within the project: Ethics in two technologies, biometrics and pathogen research. Department of Health, Ethics & Society, Care and Public Health Research Institute (CAPHRI), Maastricht University (UM)was responsible for WP5.
WP6 was to deal with the consequences of the insights of WP1-5 for a value-informed governance of S&T: Synthesis. This WP was a joint responsibility of the partners.
WP7 was to deal with feedback from end-users and dissemination to a wider public: Dissemination. This WP was a joint responsibility of the partners.
WP8 was to deal the management of the project work: Coordination and management of the project. Each work-package faced some cross-cutting issues to other work-packages and other disciplines. The work in WP6 was essentially inter-disciplinary. Before reporting on the specific insights from the different work packages, we believe it is essential to report the basic and essentially inter-disciplinary understanding that informed the whole work, in particular in WP6. The Centre for the Study of the Sciences and the Humanities, University of Bergen (Norway) was responsible for this WP
1.(Coordinator) Centre for the Study of the Sciences and the Humanities , Norway, University of Bergen, Norway
The University of Bergen (UiB) is Norway’s second largest university. The responsible department at UiB in this project is the Centre for the Study of the Sciences and the Humanities (SVT).
The SVT interfaculty research centre has coordinated a number of interdisciplinary research projects on uncertainty and complexity in the interface between science, ethics and management/governance. Its research practices are characterized by the interdisciplinary combination of philosophy and history of science, STS and science ethics/bioethics, in many cases also in transdisciplinary dialogue with practicing scientists, decision-makers and citizens.
2. Methodology Institute, London School of Economics and Political Science, United Kingdom
The Methodology Institute will contribute both substantively and methodological, in particular as WP leader in WP2 – Value Methods. The Methodology Institute’s (Mi) aims and objectives are informed by the LSE’s mission to be the “leading academic centre of international excellence in the study and application of the social sciences”. The Institute’s academic staff has diverse disciplinary backgrounds, including statistics, criminology, psychology, sociology, political science, management and bio-ethics.
3. Centre for Ethics, Eberhard Karls Universität Tübingen, Germany
Eberhard Karls Universität Tübingen – Interdepartmental Centre for Ethics in the Sciences and Humanities (EKUT-IZEW). The Interdepartmental Centre for Ethics in the Sciences and Humanities (IZEW) was founded in 1990. It has long-standing expertise in research, documentation and knowledge transfer in the whole realm of application-oriented ethics, with special foci on ethics in the biological and medical sciences, ethics and education, gender ethics, and the new field of ethics of security technologies. It has an internationally significant documentation centre and special library, and has been hosting the postgraduate programs “ethics in the sciences” and "bioethics” (1991-200 and from 2004, respectively). A new section “ethics and culture” has been established in 2006, with projects on security technologies and on nanotechnology.
4. dialog<>gentechnik, Austria
dialog <> gentechnik is an independent non-profit academia-linked institution founded 1997 with the aim to support public understanding of gene technology and biosciences. It fosters the well-founded dialogue about genetic technology and related biosciences and functions as an interface between science and the public. It also serves as a competent information centre for the public. Its scientific background combined with experience in public relations is the best qualification for high standard work.
5. Centro de Estudos sobre a Mudança Socioeconómica (DINÂMIA), Portugal
DINÂMIA – Centro de estudos sobre a mudança socioeconómica (Research Centre on Socioeconomic Change; Instituto Superior de Ciências doTrabalho e da Empresa – ISCTE) Lisbon, Portugal, is a multidisciplinary research centre in the social sciences at ISCTE, in Lisbon. DINÂMIA includes 30 permanent researchers from economics, sociology, social psychology, law and applied mathematics. It collaborates with a wide and diverse range of national and international entities.
The main areas of DINÂMIA's research work are: Employment; Innovation; Territory; Science and Technology; Environment; Prospective Analysis and Public Policy Evaluation; Norms and Collective Action; Culture; and Financial Markets and Monetary Policy. DINÂMIA has been involved in various research projects funded by the EC .
6. Department of Health, Ethics & Society, Care and Public Health Research Institute (CAPHRI),Maastricht University, The Netherlands
Department of Health, Ethics & Society, Care and Public Health Research Institute(CAPHRI), Maastricht University (UM). - Maastricht University has a unique and strong international profile on research and education (famous for its problem based learning and tutorial group approach).
The Department of Health, Ethics & Society has a long standing reputation in coordinating and participating in European projects and has a broad ethical expertise in various fields of biotechnology and its application in health research and healthcare settings. The Department is embedded in the Faculty of Health, Medicine and Life Sciences and the Academic Hospital at Maastricht University, and has the Chair and the Secretary of the European Association of Centers of Medical Ethics (EACME).
Maastricht cooperates in both national and international projects in science and technology studies, philosophy and ethics, in genomics and biotechnology. Maastricht has research experience on the topics of ethics and dialogue, the concept of values, governance, citizenship and social responsibility in the context of a network society, technological culture and plurality in Europe.