About Spiral

About Spiral

Since its creation in 1995, the research centre Spiral from the University of Liège developed a unique expertise in the fields of risk analysis and management and public policies appraisal. The research conducted at Spiral fundamentally pertains to a global reflection on governance in a context of scientific uncertainty and dynamics of technological innovation.

Spiral activities are distributed among four strategic areas :

  • « Risk & governance » unit
  • « Science & Technology in Society Studies (STS) » unit
  • « Public policy and administration » unit
  • « Methodological innovations » unit

Spiral is an academic research department that is characterized by a strong interdisciplinary approach. A broad diversity of disciplinary backgrounds is to be found among the collaborators (political science, social science, law, public administration, risk communication, discourse analysis, criminology, anthropology, deontology, political philosophy, environmental science).

Spiral’s know-how rests on a great deal of qualitative and participatory methods that allow for original and innovative inquiries for assessing and shaping decision making-processes. This scientific diversity allows Spiral to contribute with a great deal of added value to research and consultancy either at the levels of the municipality, the region, the federal state, the European community or the international level. Spiral and its members are above all engaged for servicing the community.

Spiral operates under the direction of Prof. Dr. Ir. Catherine Fallon.

« Risk and governance » (coordinated by Catherine Fallon and Pierre Ozer)

This unit conducts fundamental and applied research about the social perception of risks, public policies in risky areas (GMOs, nuclear waste management, food chain safety, nanotechnologies), environmental risks management, emergency planning, as well as conflicts management and resolution (siting conflicts: cell phone antennas, toxic waste disposal, wind turbines). The “Risk and governance” unit also delivers an Interuniversity Degree in emergency planning (http://planicom.be) that targets professionals in the field of emergency planning and crisis management.

« Science & Technology in Society Studies (STS) » (coordinated by Pierre Delvenne)

The research and teaching activities are grounded in an interdisciplinary approach to the science, technology and innovation (STI). They encompass topics such as technology assessment (nanotechnologies, medical genomics, electronic identity card, biotechnology, surveillance, nuclear energy, renewables), modern STI regimes in Europe and Latin America, food issues (functional food, nutraceuticals), the transformation of scientific institutions and research activities in advanced capitalism, public health and new technologies, and public policies and decisional support in STI. The researchers involved in the STS unit mobilize mainly qualitative methodologies to analyze the social and political interactions as well as power relations at the heart of the construction of modern science and technology. The STS unit is a founding member of the Belgian STS network. Since 2011-2012, at the initiative of SPIRAL Research Centre, the University of Liège is the first Belgian university to offer political science students the possibility to follow a specialized teaching module in Science and Technology in Society, in collaboration with the University of Maastricht and the ESST programme.

« Public policy and administration » (coordinated by Catherine Fallon)

This multidisciplinary research team continues to develop an empirical as well as theoretical expertise in the analysis and assessment of public affairs. Currently, the main axes of research are: comparative analysis of public action; integrated models of public policies evaluation; the transformation of Wallonia's public administration (BE) and how it deals with the challenges posed by emerging risks and technological innovations. The approach is interdisciplinary as it brings together administrative science on the one hand and models which are being used in the analysis and evaluation of public policies on the other. The unit is also part of an Interuniversity Degree in public policies evaluation that targets professionals of public action.

« Methodological innovations » (coordinated by Catherine Fallon, Pierre Delvenne and Aurore François)

Spiral conducts its overall research within a strong transversal reflection on methodologies about public (?) participation and its instruments: e.g. focus groups; Delphi methods; scenario workshops; citizen juries and consensus conferences. Such instruments bring together public servants, scientific experts and laypeople, and thus require the application of specific ad hoc techniques, varying according to the situation or the particular issue at stake. Within this framework, the “methodology” unit develops a project of software-assisted modelling tools of participation. In particular, the software Mesydel automatizes and eases (by decreasing costs and raising the level of participation) the actual implementation of public enquiries using the Delphi method.