Research

Introduction BMS research Themes

BMS Research Programme

Excellence in research, societal impact, internationalization, synergy between disciplines, and a flourishing community of researchers will remain the values that steer the strategy of the faculty BMS in its mission to become a leading centre at the intersection of behavioural, management, and social sciences and technology. The mission of the BMS research programme is to use science to create societal impact of technology. The programme uses interdisciplinary scientific theories and methods to develop and assess technological innovations that have an impact on contemporary societal challenges. 

The faculty BMS chose five themes to focus on during the next 5-10 years: emerging technologies, resilience, smart industry, learning, and health. Below the overall programma is described in general and the five themes are described on seperate pages.

Each theme describes the particular domain challenges that new technologies pose and relate them to the scientific contribution as well as the societal impact that the faculty of BMS aims to achieve. Each of the five themes contributes to an overarching research programme in its own characteristic way, tailored to the specific challenges regarding the theme. The first theme has a cross-cutting focus with regard to the interplay of emerging technologies and societal transformation that provides the means to conceptualize and evaluate the interplay across the other themes. The themes are also mutually related to each other. For example, resilience and smart industry also need continuous learning whereas resilience, smart industry, and learning also have an impact on and depend on a healthy population.
Hence, the faculty of BMS has chosen an open and inclusive strategy rather than dividing themes across specific groups or researchers. 

BMS Research programme: Cartoon drawn by the Procescartograaf, Deventer.

Domain challenges

Societies are in a process of continuous change that is accelerated by technological innovations, like those in digital technology, biomedical technology, and nanotechnology. As these technologies become more complex, invasive, immersive, pervasive, and autonomous, a better understanding of the interplay between social and technological systems is more vital than ever before. Innovative technologies are constitutive of new social practices, rather than only replacing or improving existing ones. At the same time, technologies are also constituted in social practices in which people do not only accept and use them but also adapt, change, and implement them in often unintended or unexpected ways. A strong interdisciplinary cooperation between technological and social sciences is necessary to address this challenge.

Future technologies also highlight and interact with the multi-layered nature of social systems, sometimes referred to as ‘glocailsation’, but more often displaying the need to understand the complex dynamics of multi-actor and multi-layered ‘systems of systems’.. At the individual or micro-level, technologies interact with the minds, bodies, and social relationships of people. An important challenge at this level is personalization: how can technologies be developed that fit the different competences and needs of individuals? At the organizational or meso-level, technologies modify the role and functioning of business, governmental, and nongovernmental organizations. Here, accountable governance is essential: how can businesses and organisations develop processes that support the implementation of new technologies? At the societal or macro-level, technologies transform societal structures and processes, and make mass-movements (and ‘big data’) out of individualised social networks or creative entrepreneurial initiatives. At this level, inclusiveness is a major issue: how can technologies be developed that do not lead to a societal divide or exclusion of societal groups? Given this multi-layered nature of society, it is crucial to combine behavioural, organizational, and societal disciplines in order to understand the dynamic interplay between technological and social systems.

Future technologies allow to be used as innovative scientific methodologies that promise to rapidly advance the behavioural, management, and social sciences. Wearables, GPS-tracking, virtual reality, eyetracking, and crowd control promise more naturalistic, ecologically valid assessment of human behaviours, relations, organizations, and societies, but issues around their use and interpretation still need to be resolved. Furthermore, new technologies produce flows of big data whose potentials and pitfalls are just beginning to get explored. Big data are increasingly used in organizations, but they are in need of good science to make sense of the data as well as regulations concerning ethical issues like privacy.

Scientific contribution

The BMS research programme brings together behavioural, management, and social sciences to contribute to the scientific understanding of the dynamic and multi-layered nature of the impact of technological innovation. The programme has two theoretical aims as well as two methodological aims in its scientific contribution:

(1)     to closely cooperate with technological disciplines in order to better understand technological developments from a behavioural, management, and social science perspective early on in the innovation process;

(2)     to adjust and integrate existing disciplinary theories into more interdisciplinary frameworks that allow for a better understanding and explanation of the dynamic societal impact of technologies across the micro-, meso- and macro-level;

(3)     to further develop a multimethod approach, integrating more traditional methods with virtual reality, sensing, tracking, and simulation methods that will allow more naturalistic, ecologically valid assessments;

(4)     to advance the validity of big data analytics by incorporating domain-specific knowledge into computational models.

Societal Impact

Through its research, the BMS research programme strives to create societal impact. It aims to further develop a design approach that involves the development, early assessment, implementation, evaluation, and societal impact of new technologies. This design approach engages stakeholders (citizens, professionals, managers, and social policy makers) in an iterative process. By providing scientific evidence, the programme wants to contribute to personalized, governable, and inclusive technological solutions that have an impact on societal challenges. In close collaboration with societal groups and institutions the programme wants to contribute to the continued education of professionals about technological innovations; endorse the development of new technologies that will be used by people in solving societal problems; support the establishment of new forms of organizing adapted to new technological systems; provide new implementation strategies and governance models; and deliver tools, regulations, and advice for socio-economic policies at the societal level.

Infrastructure

The research staff is the main asset of the BMS programme. The faculty will therefore invest in new personnel to complement existing expertise, support the development and careers of researchers and contribute to community development between the researchers. The faculty will also stimulate the relations of BMS researchers with technological researchers in the new UT institutes. The faculty strives to extend its long-lasting cooperation with societal partners in order to create societal impact. The technological facilities that have been updated over the past years will receive continued attention, in particular those of the BMSlab as well as facilities for data storage and computing power. The faculty strives to gain influence in the agenda setting of national and international funding agencies. In order to create impact, the choice for the five research themes for the coming years has been carefully aligned with the National Science Agenda, grand societal challenges addressed in European funding, and the United Nations sustainable development goals.