Findings and achievements of the project

The Value isobars project has made specific achievements in relation to its overall goals and sub-goals as specified in its description of work. The specific achievements are as described below:


1. Blueprints for a value-based and value-informed new and flexible governance of the science-society relation in Europe.

This overall goal of the project referred to the collective task in WP6 to formulate a blueprint for a value-informed governance of S&T on the basis of the insights and challenges in the WPs1-5. In other words, the task was to highlight aspects of the work that would carry over to a more general S&T policy.


Work towards this end was performed through four workshops throughout the project period, involving the whole consortium and taking place in Hamburg.  Preliminary results from the workshop discussions were distributed electronically to a group selected end-users. This group provided feedback to the discussions which again was included in the discussions of the Hamburg workshops. The group of selected end-users was also invited to the final project conference in Brussels.


On the basis of these deliberations a blueprint for value-informed governance of S&T was elaborated and presented at the final conference in Brussels. In the blueprint of value-informed governance of S&T the traditional scheme of governance is enriched along several lines and additions.


Firstly, it is presented as more dynamic, reflecting the insight that the values held by people are prone to some dynamic change, as a response to earlier experiences with science and technology. Though values typically do not change as quickly as asserted attitudes, they are also influenced by changing beliefs and experiences, if only in the weight that is given to them in relation to other values or the connotations through which they are understood. Furthermore, learning from previous experiences is seen as important for good governance. Thus results the need of dynamic feedback in the governance of S&T.


Secondly, the Value Isobars blueprint proposes several mechanisms which show potential in regard to three basic functions:

1) providing empirically founded information on values and value conflicts, specifically in regard to S&T,

2) extending participatory and consultative processes to citizens at large that explicitly refer to their values, and

3) including soft law policy tools that appeal to the values and responsibilities of various actors.


Specifics of the value-informed governance model are outlined in deliverable WP6_4_Value-informed governance of science and technology - a blueprint





2. Guidance on implementation issues in relation to improved governance schemes.


The project offered to provide concrete guidance on some crucial implementation issues for value-informed governance of S&T. More concretely, this task involved the identification of measures which would make social values an element included in the cycle of activities from priority setting in research policy to the conduct of research to the innovation and finally the implementation phase. This task was also closely related to the work in WP6, though some of the suggested measures were the outcome of the WPs 1-5. In this summary report we want to highlight four of these measures:


i) The project partners strongly suggest to produce a European S&T Value Atlas in regular intervals that would take up questions of science and technology in relation to their value dimensions. The project has produced a proto-type of such an atlas. Its function would be to address issues of current concern and relate them explicitly to values as they are held in various societies. The task would be to routinely inform the EU Commission, with DG research in particular, members of the European Parliament, and project coordinators under FP/ or higher about the value landscape in Europe, in a way that is adjusted to the typical problems for S&T policy making. In a concise manner it would highlight selected issues as a 2-pager, with brief textual information, accompanied by informative graphics and references to reliable sources. Value Isobars thus proposes to include the production of a European Value Atlas as an important element of value-informed governance of S&T. It is the manifestation of what in the project title is referred to as value “isobars”, i.e. the equivalent to weather charts, providing an overview of the landscape of values that particular S&T developments enter into. Take a look at the prototype: WP6_8_Prototype of European S&T Value Atlas

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ii) The project partners suggest including a number of carefully prepared participatory exercises with ordinary citizens for the process of setting priorities for S&T policies. In Value Isobars a promising new model of a science parliament with young people has been performed. Science parliaments address the following general goals in regard to S&T policies:

• A source of legitimization

• A supplementary tool to detect relevant social values

• To provide public views and perspectives

• To identify areas of public consensus.

Obviously, these participatory exercises cannot result in statistically representative views or recommendations of the public at large. Yet they can help focus attention on certain value-sensitive issues, and they can provide for a valuable counter-perspective to the expert advice (as a form of extended peer review). Such exercises need not be performed on a really large scale, but they could e.g. accompany the expert advices from different sources and countries. The upshot of this process would be an early sensitivity to gaps between expert and political council versus public perception in regard to the guiding values for S&T policies. Read more about this here: WP3_4_Report on participative method on values for governance






iii) The Value Isobars project with its focus on values has also argued the case for policy tools that rely on so-called soft law and self-regulation, as discussed in WP4. They may provide better tools than “hard law” when one has to cope with the need for both flexibility and adjustment to novelty and prevailing uncertainties. Their relative advantage lies mainly in their ability to engage wider sections of society, openness for a variety of more specific interpretations and practices, and their appeal to the social co-responsibility of various actors. So far, within the EU, soft law and self-regulation has been resorted to mainly as preparatory or complimentary tools to hard law. An example is the code of conduct for Nanosciences and nanotechnologies. The project claims that the positive potential of soft law tools in complex scientific and technological fields with great inner dynamics is still underestimated. Read more about these proposals here: WP4_3_Sketch of value based governance tools


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iv) Given that our efforts of integration of societal value concerns in concrete research projects are still rudimentary, and that social science, law, philosophy and ethics often struggle to identify or define their role in these projects, it seems advisable to routinely provide for fora of scholarly exchanges across running projects as a part of the project work, since valuable insights about science-society relations and value research are often not communicated across projects.


Furthermore, in multi-disciplinary and multi-national projects one typically faces the problem that participating parties do not see how societal concerns such as values can affect their work other than through a more decisive dissemination and information process. What is called for is a project organization and management that provides enough room for mutual learning among the involved project partners. Guides or examples of best management practices for integrated projects could address this issue.




3. Identification of necessary research tasks in order to move from a generic understanding of value-based and value-informed governance to more specific mechanisms of governance that improve current practice.


The project has identified a number of concrete research needs in order to move towards value-informed governance of S&T:


• Empirical research should be undertaken to better cover the interplay of values / value-sets with questions of S&T within the European countries, aiming at a better representation of the cultural and societal variety within Europe.


• Eurobarometers with relevance for the governance of S&T should be more focused, including targeted questioning of value-related issues, and repeated in regular time-intervals.


• Qualitative research on values in relation to S&T should be conducted on a wider scale within the European community.


• Research should be conducted aiming at establishing a European data base for qualitative data on values in relation to S&T.


• Research should be conducted aiming at cross-fertilization between empirical research on values and conceptual, philosophical and normative research on this issue.


• Research should be conducted to develop a practical standard for the measurement of values in relation to S&T. Such an instrument should account for the inter-relation between values and beliefs. The research should aim at explaining value diversity, ambiguity and complexity in the cultural landscape of Europe.


• Research needs to utilize the full range of methods from quantitative to qualitative research and provide a more detailed picture of how individuals in different roles as stakeholders and citizens utilize various value sets and address S&T issues out of different value perspectives that characterize segments of and functions in society.


• Research should be conducted how in practice to avoid the values-as-truism problem by more advanced methods.


• Research should be conducted to utilize sophisticated statistical methods, reviews and meta analyses in order to improve measurement quality, identification of latent values and identification of natural groupings for publicly accessible data sets in relation to values and matters of S&T.


• Research should be conducted to evaluate the short-term and long-term value of participatory exercises of various forms, and in particular to identify to what degree these exercises can elicit deeper values or value-sets of people that guide them in their perceptions of S&T.


• Research should be conducted reviewing previous integrated research projects in different fields and evaluate the amount of integration of social science, philosophy or ethical components in the scientific and technological work. The research should result in best-practice models for further design of integrated projects. A number of specific research tasks have been put forward from a more philosophical perspective:


Read more about these recommendations here:WP2_2_Comparison of methodological approaches to value studies





• Philosophical research has to focus on developing tools for addressing value conflicts as well as conflicting value traditions in a way that the form of their treatment and possible results that can be accepted by different value traditions.


• Implicit and explicit value judgments in European S&T governance should be made transparent whereby main driving forces of political decisions would become accessible for an open dialogue.


• Philosophical and science studies research should focus on the hypothesis that values are conceived of differently than ethics in the sense of a norms/rule system and what implications of the replacement of ethics by value discourse would be.


• Research has to focus on the working of different political systems on a local, regional, national and global level and on how they can be amended by mechanisms that allow for better value informed



• Social science and ethics research should develop together new policy tools that explicitly focus on dealing with value conflicts and test them in different political settings. Research can built on existing literature on participation and elaborate specific policy tools for value dialogue on different political levels.


• A systematic study of specific best practice examples on a local, regional and national level with regard to how they solved value conflicts should be undertaken. It can draw on a wide range of literature e.g. from new institutional economics. Research would focus on the way value conflicts are dealt with and make these mechanisms explicit.


The more specific achievements related to the various sub-goals of the project are mainly dealt with in the deliverables of the individual WPs. For more on this: WP6_3_Research needs for a value-informed governance of science and technology






Read more:

- The final reporet

 - Periodic reports


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Value Isobars is an EU funded project under the seventh framework program.

The project has been coordinated by the Centre of the Study of the Sciences and the Humanities, University of Bergen and lead by Prof. Matthias Kaiser.

Funding period:
June 2009- November 2011

Project number: 230557

EU-funding: 819971.00 Euro