Spirit & history of the research of the Science & Technology Studies group

In 1999 the Belgian Nuclear Research Centre SCK-CEN initiated a ‘Programme for Integration of Social Aspects into nuclear research’ (PISA). The aim was to unfold the societal, political, cultural and ethical aspects related to the development and use of nuclear technologies and guide policy in these areas. Put differently, PISA research aims at bridging nuclear science and society, by investigating how the two interact and how this interaction could be improved. To this aim, a variety of methods from the social sciences and humanities are deployed, such as focus groups, public opinion surveys, interviews, media-analysis, … .

From the onset of PISA, interaction has been sought with various stakeholders: researchers from nuclear and non-nuclear fields, policy-makers, representatives of industry and of civil society and the public in general, with the aim of developing multidisciplinary and participatory research activities. The emergence of the programme inside a technical research institute was the result of an internal reflection acknowledging that insights from social sciences and humanities were required to better understand normative concepts that came to the fore at the time, such as precaution, sustainable development or safety culture.

Given the status of SCK-CEN as a foundation of public utility, the establishment of the PISA programme was seen not only as an opportunity to explore alternatives to the so-called technocratic approach to science and technology development, but also as a responsibility towards society.