16th Annual STS Conference 2017:
Social Justice in Science, Technology and Environment

This year’s conference has a special thematic focus on social justice in science, technology, and environmental issues. We understand social justice as a critical perspective to analyse systematic discrimination of social groups in socio-technical, or scientific processes. These social groups are often not only characterised by one social category, but by intersecting categories. This means our approach to social justice comprises explicit intersectional as well as queer-feminist theories.

We are interested in discussions about technologies, environmental issues and scientific procedures, which hinder or enable social justice, like access to technologies/information or participation in various arenas, and linked questions about power relations.

Furthermore, we want to bridge social and environmental justice research and invite their communities, to think about how questions of distribution (e.g. of energy, food, but also harmful pollution) are connected to the discrimination of distinct social groups.

Finally, we want to stress the transdisciplinary approach of the conference, because we think that these discussions need participation beyond academia, and invite especially activists, policy makers and practitioners, as well as students and the interested public to participate. Co-operative activities between researchers and non-researchers, such as joint papers and workshops are highly welcome. To further highlight the transdisciplinarity, we explicit encourage participants to submit workshop concepts, and creative forms of conference inputs.

In our call for sessions we suggest the following thematic fields, in which a social justice perspective should be embedded, and we would like to encourage participants to think outside the box by combining thematic fields and considering intersections:

1. Social Gender Justice in Science and Technology

Social gender justice combines questions of social justice with gender equality issues, for instance by asking would an equal participation of women in academic institutions automatically lead to socially just science and research? If not, why? Furthermore, intersectional perspectives include questions of racism, sexism, ableism, and queer dimensions in science, environment and technology. Thus, social gender justice is not limited to gender discourses, but moreover questions reproductions of marginalized/hegemonic positions and ‘normalizations’ in and through science and technologies.

2. Social (in)justice and food systems

The currently dominating industrialized and globalized food system is unjust in many respects, ranging from unequal access to healthy, fresh and culturally appropriate food, unequal distribution of environmental implications and use of natural resources to a rampant exploitation of food system workers, and finally a very unequal distribution of power in the whole food system. All these phenomena are not only rooted in the food system, but refer to a wider societal context of injustice. Thus research on food systems that goes “beyond food” can be used as a lens for investigating the broader structural context, and the ways in which societal differences are produced and reproduced, both discursively and materially. Against this background, critical investigations on the potential of alternative food system practices may also help to provide insights in how to drive substantive changes in social and political issues “beyond food”.

3. Life Sciences/Biotechnology

Proposals for sessions are sought in two thematic areas:

First, following some 20 years of public debate, agricultural biotechnology continues to be a deeply controversial issue in the EU, partly fueled by progress in science and technology innovation such as GM industrial and energy crops, or novel breeding techniques. Especially proposals for sessions, contributing to a better understanding of the regulatory, broader policy and governance challenges of agricultural biotechnology, and/or explore strategies to manage these challenges, are very welcome.

Second, in recent years, social studies of the life sciences were bound to large scale research programmes. In many countries, these funding schemes have now come to an end. This is an opportunity to review these previous programmes via collaborative engagement with the life sciences, as well as to explore new ways of inquiry. Proposed sessions are encouraged to address these issues when analysing the life sciences as a social process.


4. Social Injustice and the Mobility System

Injustice is materialized in our dominating mobility system in many respects: Looking at the share of public space which is occupied by cars, keeping in mind, that public transport is often quite well developed in urban areas, but not so in rural areas, looking at the fact that owners of new cars are – in average – middle class white men, 50+ years old, looking at the fact that pedestrians are marginalized in our streets, by bikers and cars-drivers as well, and keeping in mind the high externalized costs of cars and airplanes, to be covered not by the oil, car or airplane-industry. A critical analysis of inequalities, caused or stabilized by our recent mobility system could help to shape a more inclusive, more sustainable way we move, could deliver first ideas of a substantial “Verkehrswende”.

5. Sustainable and Innovative Public Procurement & Ecodesign

The supply side policy “Ecodesign”, and the demand side policy “Public Procurement” are used to support the transition towards green, socially responsible and innovative markets. Nonetheless, scientific research in these respective fields is still limited. Researchers investigating the following areas are encouraged to propose sessions:

The environmental impact or the innovation potential of green public procurement and ‘Ecodesign’; the impact of socially responsible public procurement; the hurdles, success factors, efficacy, and wider implications of European or national policies for sustainable and innovative public procurement and ‘Ecodesign’.

6. Towards Low-Carbon Energy Systems

Based on analyses of social, technological and organisational frameworks of energy use, contributions should consider the shaping of sustainable energy, climate and technology policies. They should focus on socio-economic aspects of energy technologies or on strategies of environmental technology policy. They should develop measures and strategies for the promotion of renewable energy sources; for the transition to a sustainable energy system; or, contribute to the field of sustainable construction. Regional governance, climate policy strategies, innovation policy, participation and the role of users are important themes. Questions of social justice like energy poverty or unequal access to energy resources should be in the focus as far as possible.


Of course, sessions outside this year´s thematical focus are welcome too!