Symposium: Innovation Governance and Security Controversies

We live in societies which like to cure societal problems with technological innovation. Online surveillance is used to fight radicalization, smart borders are supposed to help tackle “irregular migration”, and registers of medical data shall improve medical research and public health. However, innovation can also pose different risks – from ethical, legal, social, to concerns over security. 

Many techno-scientific innovations make things possible that are seen as potentially threatening to the security of our societies, our privacy etc. At the same time, with the increasing complexity of our societies dependent on modern technologies, we think more about events and phenomena that have the potential to disrupt the existing political and social orders. This state of preparedness to all sorts of risks - whether they are related to political violence, infrastructure disruptions, social instabilities, or natural disasters - fuels the demand for innovation and technologies that would make the society resilient to disruptive shocks and prepared to insecure future. How are the security concerns over governing innovation formulated and addressed, and with what implications?

This symposium brings together different perspectives on security controversies related to the governance of innovation and discusses the underlying conflicts of values they make visible. What are the dilemmas surrounding controversial innovations symptomatic of? How desirable is the change these innovations seek to bring, who will benefit from it - and who might not? And finally, what can democratic societies do better to prevent and mitigate controversies in research and innovation? Drawing on examples from nuclear science, life sciences, information systems and other areas, it will shed light on how security controversies in science and technology emerge and how they have been dealt with in diverse fields. Based on this, it will discuss how the governance of science, technology, and innovation can be brought closer to the society and made more inclusive.

The symposium aims at addressing academic audience, policy experts, journalists, policy makers, students, as well as interested public.

Registration via event(at) is open until November 4th.




Panel 1: Security Controversies in Research and Innovation

Opening word and moderation: Dagmar Rychnovská (IHS)

This panel will look at some of the most prominent examples of contested innovation which have been feared for posing security risks and will discuss how these risks, dilemmas, and controversies have been articulated and tackled.

  • On the problem of dual-use in nuclear science and technology - Anna Weichselbraun (University of Vienna)

  • Security controversies in genome editing: addressing diverging fundamental assumptions? - Alexander Lang (IHS)

  • A fragile transparency: satellite imagery analysis, non-state actors, and visual representations of security - Nina Klimburg-Witjes (University of Vienna)

  • Outsourcing public agency and accountability - Ben Wagner (WU Wien)




Panel 2: Debating Technoscience

Moderation: Thomas König (IHS)

The second panel will deal with how science, technology, and innovation are debated and governed in democratic societies, with what effects, and how can this be done in a more inclusive and democratic way.


  • Dual Mandate: The IAEA and the control/promotion dilemma in global nuclear governance - Elisabeth Röhrlich (University of Vienna)

  • Are traffic accident coders the designers of autonomous mobility? - Robert Braun (IHS)

  • Science- policy interrelations in and for negotiating a new treaty on marine biodiversity - Alice Vadrot (University of Vienna)

  • Emotions, democracy and the postfactual threat to expertise - Anna Durnová (IHS) 

18.00-19.00 Get together with drinks