Are Sociology and Technology natural twins?

The teaching excellence prizes of RWTH Aachen University, Aachen (D) has bestowed three teaching persons, namely Prof. Roger Häussling, Institute for Sociology (IfS), Prof. Thomas Gries, and  Jacqueline Lemm, both Institute for Textile Technology (ITA). The award was initiated in 2001 for teaching excellence at the RWTH Aachen University

Are sociology and technology natural twins? This question is raised frequently by students of  technical sciences. In a bestowed seminar, students of social sciences and humanities cooperated with engineers and students of natural sciences and new technologies and by reducing perceptions against rather “dry” scientific matters. They treated textile technologic aspects from a sociological view point in order to develop joint concepts and solutions. The aim of the seminar is to bridge natural sciences and engineering science. Students of natural sciences learn at an early stage of their studies how important their capabilities and knowhow are in these two scientific sectors

The usefulness for industries and society is the clue that newly developed technologies find a quicker acceptance when they are based on a sociological thinking process. Sociologists weigh all aspects such as how the new technology can be made more acceptable. These estimations are considered in the construction of the development of new technologies and lead to a more comprehensive acceptance of the new technology and its applications. On top of that it allows the applying industrial a better position in selling the new technology.

The social factors become ever more important when developing new technologies. Interdisciplinary teams composed of engineers, natural and sociological researchers are becoming more and more accepted and allow new applications for natural scientists in technological projects.

Important is also the fact on how we deal with technology, what are the consequences for ever growing technological development and applications. Such joint thinking processes evaluate also the chances and the inherent risks involved. Further the question on how the newly developed technology will be accepted by societies. Also the aspect is examined of when a technology is becoming a true innovation. These questions are answered by sociologists in team with developing engineers.

The earlier the presence of the sensibility for technical aspects in studies is wakened, the better, because it creates a natural acceptance and openness for sociological students to deal with technology and vice-versa. Award winner Jacqueline Lemm has accepted a teaching project in sociology and heads the seminar on top of her promotion at IfS and ITA. Both institutes are footing on many years of experience and expertise. Jaqueline Lemm is conviced that other institutes and university will establish in the future also similar standard programmes and declares: “Jointly, sociologists and engineers will ideally manage the technological challenges of industries and environment”.

Award winner Prof. Häussling (IfS) researches already for years the interdependence between technology and human society and award winner Prof. Gries (ITA) delivers the themes of the future such as mobility, construction and residence, life scienes, energy, textile medical implants, recycling  and renewable resources. Prof. Gries has been named the same day also Professor of Honour at Moscow University in Russia.

The second award winner in teaching excellence is Dr. Nicole Rafai, MPH and the third prize goes to Prof. Dr. Florian Sems, teaching and researching technology and service marketing of economic sciences.

Please refer also to these two links to get more informatiion on Prototyping of the new CFM addition to and on ITA itself.


Awarded EU top researchers

The European Research Council (ERC) is awarding EUR 680 million to 302 senior research leaders in 24 different countries across Europe, in the latest competition for its prestigious “Advanced Grants”. With up to EUR 2.5 billion per project, the funding allows these scientists to pursue their most ground-breaking ideas at the frontiers of knowledge together with their own teams

The projects selected cover a wide range of topics. A scientist and his team in France will develop new models to explain certain physical phenomena like superconductivity. A team based in Latvia will bring together computer science, physics and mathematics to assess the advantages and limits of quantum devices. Another grant goes to a researcher in Italy who will look at how economic actors form and change their beliefs about their environment and about each other, by adding emotional and psychological features to existing models.

In this Advanced Grand competition, some 2300 applications were submitted to the ERC, a slight rise (+4.5 %) against 2011. Also the call budget has seen a minor increase to EUR 680 million and the number of funded scientists increased from 294 to 302, while the rate of successful applications remained steady at 13 %, 11 applicants originated outside the European Research Area (EU member states plus countries associated to the Framework Programme for Research) and they mark an increase. Just over 15 % of the selected researchers are females (+12%) and the average age of researchers is 51 years. The actual funding programme sees 45 % of the selected proposals in the Physical Science and Engineering domain, 37 % in Life Sciences and 18 % in Social Sciences and Humanities. 25 panels were established to select the candidates.

The EU created the first pan-European funding organisation for frontier research in 2007. The ERC, the newest component of the EU’s 7th Research Framework Programme (Ideas – Specific Programme) has a total budget of EUR 7.5 billion from 2007 – 2013. The EU Commission has proposed a significant boost of the ERC budget to over EUR 13 billion in the new framework programme “Horizon 2020” (2014 – 2020).


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