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Interdisciplinary research on Society-Technology-Environment interactions (InSyTE)

InSyTE is an interdisciplinary research unit that aims to develop knowledge, methods and tools to better understand the interactions between technology, society and the environment in our current and future societies. More specifically, this research unit studies and analyzes the dynamics of evolution of socio-technical systems (STS) and socio-technical-ecological systems (STES), and their effects on society, in terms of sustainability, risks and security. This research concerns the evolution of these systems in their multi-scale (spatial and temporal) and contextualized aspects. It is oriented towards an interdisciplinary, holistic and situated perspective.

The scientific strategy of the research unit follows two complementary orientations, one thematic, "crisis and transition", and the other, methodological, "interdisciplinarity and transdisciplinarity". The common working hypothesis is that the evolution of the systems studied depends strongly on their context (Hypothesis 1). The study of these contexts concerns the territory or the environment.

Theme : Crisis and transition of socio-technical systems

The core of this research concerns crises and transitions of socio-technical or socio-technical-ecological systems (STS or STES) as irreversible phenomena and possibly deep and/or radical transformations (crises are characterized by a break in the evolution of a system, or disruptions, whereas transitions are considered as long-term changes). However, crisis and transition have similarities underlined by vulnerability factors, resilience and the capacity of socio-technical systems to adapt when they are under stress or undergo major disruptions (Hypothesis 2), i.e. involving major social and societal risks at different spatio-temporal horizons. These risks can lead to the alteration of the security of individuals in the socio-technical systems and the societies in which they evolve.

Given the properties of STS, the research conducted leads to the following scientific challenges:

  • Challenge 1: Improve understanding of the role of uncertainty and trust in the evolution of socio-technical systems. Their impact on decision making is fundamental. The influence of this topic on InSyTE’s research in an interdisciplinary framework is crucial.
  • Challenge 2: To improve the understanding of decision-making processes implemented before and during disturbances, transition and adaptation through a holistic and multi-scale analysis.
  • Challenge 3: Develop a holistic view of society to understand technology.
Interdisciplinarity concerns not only researchers from different disciplines crossing their points of view in transversal approaches but also the actors of the studied socio-technical systems. Interdisciplinary research allows for a more efficient study and understanding of complex phenomena by developing a holistic vision (hypothesis 3). We also assume that the transdisciplinary approach is capable of improving knowledge transfer, facilitating appropriation and developing society's trust in research (hypothesis 4). The strategic orientation "interdisciplinarity and transdisciplinarity" faces the following challenges :
  • Challenge 4 : Reduce the time it takes to transfer knowledge to society,
  • Challenge 5 : Facilitate the appropriation of and confidence in new knowledge.
It aims to experiment and evaluate transdisciplinary research methods and practices analyzed according to 3 axes of impact on society:
  • The challenges and levers of technical and management knowledge transfer, and the duration of the associated processes;
  • The ownership of co-constructed knowledge and its diffusion in society;
  • The influence of these practices on society's trust in science.
InSyTe's platforms, EcoCloud and PRESAGES, are tools capable of simulating situations, allowing researchers and practitioners to work in common experimental spaces, contributing together to the co-construction of knowledge as implied by interdisciplinarity and transdisciplinarity. It strengthens the dissemination of research results and popularization in order to improve knowledge transfer. These platforms are complemented by field experiments directly related to the life situations of the territories.
Date of update 25 mai 2022