Professor Armin Grunwald Gives First CNTR Guest Lecture

Man pointing at screen showing a graph
The internal event provided an overview of the history, motivation and process of technology assessment

On 20 June 2023, the CNTR Guest Lecture Series started with a lecture by Prof. Dr. Armin Grunwald. Professor Grunwald is the director of the Institute for Technology Assessment and Systems Analysis (ITAS) at the Karlsruhe Institute of Technology (KIT) and head of the Office of Technology Assessment at the German Bundestag (TAB). As part of the internal event, he spoke to around 15 PRIF staff and other colleagues from TU Darmstadt about his extensive experience with researching uncertain futures and bringing scientific perspectives into debates on technological innovation. The lecture offered an overview of the history and interest of technology assessment as well as a philosophical and epistemological classification.

The fields of application of technology assessment are manifold. One of its main tasks is to bring a scientific perspective to public and political debates on new technologies. Furthermore, technology assessment can support innovation processes by including possible consequences already in the development phase. 

During the lecture, Professor Grunewald emphasised the importance of the "openness of the future": Dealing with the uncertainties at the heart of research and communicating about them is an essential task, he explained. In the field of policy advice, for example, these underlying uncertainties need to be particularly strongly considered in order to interpret the available data constructively. 

Rather than formulating a set of policy recommendations for the best course of action, he said, the work of ITAS focuses on outlining various alternatives for future developments. In doing so, the risks and opportunities arising from each option are elaborated.

Professor Grunwald also spoke about the general motivation of technology assessment as a field of research. The goal should not only be to passively observe the development of technological innovations, he argued. Instead, he said, research should strive to make a difference in the real world, to support ethical and responsible development processes and to accompany political decision-making processes. To do this, he said, it is important to take normative considerations such as the guiding principle of sustainability into account at all stages, from development and resource management to the expected impacts of the technology itself. In this way, advisory technology assessment can provide orientation for political decision-makers, provide them with strategies and successfully contribute to the resolution of conflicts surrounding technology development.

After the lecture, the audience had the opportunity to ask questions on a wide range of topics. For example, methodological issues were discussed, but also strategies for communicating scientific research results in dialogue with different target groups.

CNTR would like to thank Professor Grunwald for his informative and stimulating guest lecture.

This event was made possible by the generous support of the Federal Foreign Office.

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