On May 25-27 the SENIX 2015 conference The Role of Social Sciences in a Low-Carbon Energy Mix was successfully held in Stockholm. Information is available on the web site:
Building the future energy system will meet social and political challenges. This is well acknowledged, but still there is insufficient action to involve the stakeholders needed for transparent and robust decision making by the end users of research in governments and government agencies, as well as by local and regional decision making bodies.
The SENIX initiative intends to help bridging the gap between present day conditions and full recognition of the necessity to bring in the social issues up-front. The first SENIX conference was attended by 70 participants and 55 presentations were held in 19 sessions. Key Note speeches had titles such as Preconditions for a green future (Maja Fjaestad, State Secretary, Prime Minister's Office), Bringing the social sciences and humanities to bear on energy research and innovation (Gilles Lequeux, European Commission, Directorate - General for Research & Innovation), Roadmap to an Energy Union – maintaining the focus of EU energy policy in a period of uncertainty (Richard Adams, European Economic and Social Committee) and Beyond Controversy and Diplomacy - An Ethical Perspective on Energy Governance (Gaston Meskens, University of Ghent, Belgium).
The conference was organized by Karita Research with the Swedish Energy Agency as main sponsor and with support from the Swedish Radiation Safety Authority (SSM).
A second SENIX conference will be held on June 13-15, 2016, provided sufficient funding can be achieved. Compared to SENIX 2015 the coverage of different topics related to energy production and consumption will be broadened and a next step towards the creation of the "social platform" will be taken.
SENIX organizers have the ambition that the conference will be a point of departure for future initiatives in this direction including the establishment of a social platform for a sustainable energy system. Such a platform could promote social studies of interest to both academia and decision makers, improve the visibility of the social and humanities research community and boost education, training and information thereby improving public understanding of energy matters. Further news about this initiative will be published here during 2015-16 before SENIX 2016.
The 'Implementing public participation approaches in radioactive waste disposal' (IPPA) project was brought to a successful end in 2013. The results have been summarized by CORDIS science editors at the European Commission as "Result in Brief" as follows:
The IPPA project was initiated to field test the creation of 'safe spaces' for stakeholder dialogue. Discussions were geared toward increasing participants' understanding of relevant issues and providing a forum to exchange ideas and opinions.
A model developed by the earlier RISCOM initiative was used to guide participants through arguments within a trustworthy decision-making process. The RISCOM model and other approaches to public involvement were implemented in five radioactive waste management programmes. The focus was on central and eastern European countries (Czech Republic, Poland, Romania, Slovenia and Slovakia).
IPPA's user-friendly website hosts its Participation Tool Box that organisations or groups can use in stakeholder engagement activities. The Tool Box has participation tools, methods and processes described according to a variety of descriptive criteria related to the target group, including what the objectives of the activity are. Users can compare up to five tools, methods and processes to aid in selection.
Since the ideas may be new to many outside the realm of the social sciences, the Tool Box comes with guiding principles to help stakeholders identify what they are hoping to achieve through the participation process. A Help page provides more detailed information on how the Tool Box works.
Project findings showed that the radioactive waste management sector requires a systematic and comprehensive approach to understanding societal decision-making processes. Some stakeholders hesitated to take part in activities despite the creation of safe places. This requires serious consideration in order for any public participation process to be successful and sustainable.
IPPA responded to the social and political challenges facing the successful implementation of a radioactive waste repository programme by using new approaches to public participation and transparency. The project's results point the way to enhancing the decision-making process by taking into account the broader societal perspective.
The official Cordis document is found at the Cordis web site:
Web site for the IPPA Participation Tool Box:
The RISCOM Reference Group in Poland
A key component of the IPPA project was the formation of the RISCOM reference group which could organize a dialogue in Poland concerning selection of a site for a near surface repository. On the 1st of July 2011, the Polish RISCOM reference group was established as a result of an Agreement of 12 institutions, among them representatives of governmental institutions, experts from research institutions, representatives of the municipality hosting the repository for low- and intermediate radioactive waste, and non-governmental organizations.
The Agreement especially recognizes that "the collaboration between Reference Group members is only for clarification of issues and creating mutual understanding and not for any material or procedural joint decision making thus making it possible for a very wide spectrum of organizations to take part without jeopardizing their autonomy and independence of each other". This paragraph in the Agreement was intended to guarantee that the Reference Group would be a safe space. The project was beneficial for the stakeholders in Poland who considered IPPA very constructive and helpful. Not all problems were dissolved; building trust is not easy and similarly to other countries, which entered this problem earlier, the creation of the safe space will be a step-wise process.
As a result of PLATENSO initiatives, national networks have been launched in eight countries and since December 2014, the first national network meetings take place.
A series of workshops are devoted to the science, politics and ethics of nuclear technology assessment. Two PLATENSO reports have been devoted to nuclear energy scenarios; one based on realization of current plans for nuclear energy and one for phasing out nuclear power. Draft strategies for research on social, societal and governance issues have also been produced for review during the second half of the project.
A meeting is planned for late 2015 inviting representatives of ministries and agencies responsible for energy matters of Visegrad countries (Czech Republic, Hungary, Poland, Slovakia) and France. This meeting will start the interaction with the national end users of PLATENSO, especially with regard to a social platform and research strategies. One important component of the platform will be a Virtual Information Centre which is already operational and provides an idea of the type of platform which can be made available in the future.
PLATENSO web site: http://platensoproject.eu/
Web site for the Virtual Information Centre: http://www.vicplatenso.eu
Kjell Andersson talks in Czech Parliament, more under Pressroom
Kjell Andersson talks at IAEA, Vienna, more under Pressroom
During 2010-14 the Swedish Nuclear Waste Management Co, SKB, hosted a reference group for the controversial issue of copper corrosion in a final repository for spent nuclear fuel. The idea was give the stakeholders and the public full insight into experiments all the way from the planning phase to reporting. The meetings with the group gave the participants not only insight but also a possibility to suggest modifications of the planned experiments.
Kjell Andersson, chairman of the reference group, has published a paper on the reference group, its founding principles and work programme. The paper sets the reference group as a participatory effort within a broader context of stakeholder and public participation. In particular the focus is set on the safe space approach to stakeholder participation designed to suit situations where independence and autonomy are crucial elements for the participants. To illustrate this, experiences from Sweden and the Czech Republic are compared.
Andersson, K., Copper Corrosion in Nuclear Waste Disposal: A Swedish Case Study on Stakeholder Insight, Bulletin of Science, Technology & Society June-August 2013 33: 85-95.
Kjell Andersson was Guest Editor for a Special Issue of the journal Knowledge Management Research & Practice. The Special issue, published in September 2011, has the title Knowledge Management at the Interface between Science and Policy. The Special Issue takes a broad perspective of knowledge management at the societal level and seven papers cover issues from employee motivation in companies to the interface between science and policy making in societal controversial areas like nuclear energy. The guest editor observes that knowledge management in all cases requires input from a broad variety of angles to avoid a too narrow framing at the science policy interface.