STəPS and CHEPS conduct research along four thematic orientations:

  • Theme 1: Science and Innovation Policies (STəPS)
  • Theme 2: Transformation of Higher Education and Research in the Knowledge Society (CHEPS)
  • Theme 3: Technology Dynamics and Assessment (STəPS)
  • Theme 4: History of Science, Technology and Society (STəPS)

The four themes are closely interrelated, and there has been quite a lot of fruitful project collaboration between and across them. The themes in detail:

Theme 1: Science and Innovation Policies

The leading questions of this theme are:

  1. How to devise Science and Innovation Policies in multi-level and multi-actor environments? How to achieve a more intelligent interaction between research and higher education policies? Are there better ways to balance science, technology and innovation (STI) and other public policy areas?
  2. How to make public sector research more creative and effective? How to facilitate the emergence of new fields in research and innovation and to shape innovation pro-actively?
  3. How can STI help to balance forces of globalization and localization, and what role will they play for developing economies and societies? How can research and innovation policies cope with ‘grand social challenges’ in the areas of health, energy, security or the environment?

Science and innovation are both a key resource and a cause for concern for industry and policy making in modern society. Research on science and innovation policies analyzes transformation processes of the research and innovation system, the role of governance and policy making in this transformation and the processes by which scientific knowledge contributes to policy making and innovation.

Theme 2: Transformation of Higher Education and Research in the Knowledge Society

The leading questions are:

  1. At the national or regional level, how to become and stay one of the frontrunners in the global competition for excellence and innovation while dealing with the breadth and scope of mass higher education?
  2. At the level of a single organization, how to position the organization on the international, national, or regional level and successfully network within and beyond the organization?
  3. At the level of the individual academic, how to find and to fund both a balance between teaching and research and between excellence and relevance in a world that is not just competitive in a traditional academic sense?
  4. As a student, how to find the best conditions for teaching and learning at reasonable costs that fit one’s personal needs and aspirations?

The overarching theme of CHEPS research addresses the ongoing reformulation of the function of higher education and research to play an important role in strengthening modern societies’ innovative capacities. The broader theme is subdivided into four research clusters: (1) the reformulation of the cultural and economic role of higher education in society: The Transformation of the social contract, (2) the dynamic modes of governing higher education and research: the Transformation of coordination, (3) the changing patterns of stratification and networking in higher education and with other stakeholders: the Transformation of the organizational field, and (4) the developments inside the higher education organizations: the Transformation of the professional organization.

Theme 3: Technology Dynamics and Assessment

The three leading research questions are:

  1. How can transitions of technological regimes be understood and assessed? This part of the research program has a longstanding tradition within STəPS and, over the past ten years, has been directed toward increasing understanding of the dynamics of technological change by developing a multi-level perspective (MLP) on transitions. Equally important, through this research the Strategic Niche Management (SNM) approach has been developed further as an important tool to assess technological change.
  2. How can the dynamics of user-technology relations be understood? This research widened the scope of research that was largely oriented toward processes at the level of institutions and macro-developments, to include processes in the daily life of users and design practices of engineers.
  3. How can new and emerging technologies be assessed? This research aims to develop further the Constructive Technology Assessment (CTA) approach already developed in the department. A major new focus of this research was to extend CTA to include emerging technologies such as nanotechnology and genomics.

This research theme aims to increase understanding of the dynamics of processes of technological development and the ways in which socio-technological change can be assessed. Understanding the dynamics of technological change is an intellectual challenge, but in modern society also of great relevance to societal actors and audiences, ranging from scientists and technologists to government agencies, business firms, non-profit organizations, and the general public. Therefore, the development of concepts and tools to assess and contribute to the development of technologies is an important part of the Department’s research agenda.

Theme 4: History of Science, Technology and Society

The four leading research questions are:

  1. Focus on an understanding of the co-evolution of technology and society, with particular attention to the Netherlands during the nineteenth and twentieth centuries, including an examination of the role played by technology in the ‘becoming’ of Europe during the nineteenth and twentieth centuries.
  2. Focus on the challenge of interpreting the history of science as a cultural history in which science is seen as an integrated element of more general cultural development – one that both contributes to and reflects the culture in which it is pursued.
  3. Inquiry into the history through which modern science and technology came to be seen as recognizable and recognizably distinct realms of production.
  4. Mapping the place of science and technology in global history during the period 1770-1830 (a crucial historical period associated with the rise of the modern nation-state, imperialism, modern science and industrialization).

This research theme is directed toward broadening and deepening insight in the long-term development of science, technology and society from the perspective of social, cultural, intellectual and institutional history. As such it provides an important background and context for the contemporary and future-oriented research carried out within the department and the faculty.