Research

Spiral does research in close collaboration with numerous organisations at the local, regional, federal, european level, or international levels. For each of these, many research projects have been or are being conducted.

The Risk and Governance unit addresses a variety of issues revolving around the distribution of risks in society and the conflicts they give rise to. It especially deals with the social perception of risks, risks public policies (on GMOs, food safety, nanotechnologies or radioactive waste disposal) as well as risk assessment and management. A great deal of the work is concerned with implantation conflicts, such as cell phone antennas, radioactive waste disposal or wind turbines. For each of these, we aim to unfold those conflicts and provide ways to solve them. On a more local level, it offers solutions to relevant authorities for emergency planning and crisis management. In this respect, the risk and governance unit also delivers a (interuniversity) Certificate in emergency planning (http://www.planicom.be/) tailored for professionals in the field of emergency planning and crisis management.

The STS unit develops a critical expertise in geo- and technopolitics of technological innovation, its distribution and management. It questions how flows of innovation circulate worldwide and which kind of economic and political relations they imply, especially in terms of strategic resources. The STS unit conducts different kinds of research. On the one hand, it bears on Technology Assessment and the direction of research and development (R&D) choices which are constantly performed (on nanotechnologies, the e-ID, biotechnologies, the surveillance society), modern regimes of Science, Technology and Innovation in Europe and Latin America. With respects to the latter, it questions the role of science and technology for developing countries (intellectual property, international regulation, technology transfer and social engineering). Many ongoing PhDs are adressing a wide array of topics, such as novel foods and medicine (functional foods), the governance of nanotechnologies or institutions of technology assessment. The STS unit is a founding member of the Belgian STS network. Since 2011-2012, the STS unit delivers a second degree Master in Science and Technology in Society, in collaboration with the University of Maastricht and the ESST programme.

The Administration and Public Policies unit is a mutidisciplinary research team which aims to develop a specific expertise in analysis and evaluation of public affairs, on both empirical and theoretical levels. Current research axes covers a broad diversity of topics, such as comparative analysis of public action ; integrated models of public policies evaluation ; transformations of public administration ; technological innovation and the public sector. For this purpose, administrative science is associated with a multiplicity of approaches and models for public policies analysis and evaluation. The unit is also involved in a (interuniversity) Certificate in public policies evaluation which targets public servants and, more broadly, public action professionnals.

The Methodological Innovations unit offers shared methodological approaches for all these thematic areas, which deal with participation and its tools. Examples are focus groups, the Delphi method, scenario workshops, citizen juries and consensus conferences. All theses participatory devices intend to initiate dialogue and collaboration among public servants, relevant experts and laypeople — or interested publics. Within this framework, the "Methodology" unit developed a software-based participatory tool, Mesydel, which facilitates (by decreasing costs and increasing participation rates) the application of broad inquiries modeled according to the Delphi method.