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Institute for advanced studies in science and society

An ambition

Institute for advanced studies in science and society

An ambition

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IHEST booklet

GMOs, nuclear energy, economics, nanotechnologies, climate change : these are just a few of the scientific issues confronting all members of society, decision-makers and politicians alike. IHEST’s ambition is to create a network of leading figures attentive to the issues raised by research and keen to participate in an informed debate on science, technology and innovation, and their impact on society.

As a forum for learning and reflection on the relationship between science and society, IHEST organises a one-year national training course from October to June for scholars nominated by ministerial decision. These scholars constitute a pool of top level actors from all sectors of social activity – whether or not they have a scientific background.

Every year, a European Summer school brings together some 80 participants and speakers for a short, targeted course based on the same requirements as those in the one-year course. The Institute has created a permanent environment – in addition to the one-year and summer courses – where former participants, partners and speakers can regularly come together to take part in public debate on the outcomes of research, the issues it raises and to foster better a relationship between society and science.

IHEST strives to build and disseminate a collective culture of science, research and innovation by producing studies, thanks in particular to its Reflection Workshops, by organising debates and public sessions which are published on the Institute’s website. The book series “Questions Vives” - co-published by Actes Sud and IHEST - provides a basis for reflection, debate and questions on the issues being addressed in all of the Institute’s activities.

A video presentation of the Institute

A word from the president

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The unique and original mode of training developed by IHEST has no equivalent elsewhere in France or the world. It is not like an MBA, nor the in-house “universities” of companies, nor standard professional training courses. IHEST’s ambition is to raise the capabilities among leaders and decision-makers for strategic analysis of science/society issues. IHEST also plays a crucial role by giving key players in innovation, large and small companies, and research organisations the tools to communicate, to build better mutual understanding and a shared vision of innovation and of the role of science in an increasingly complex society.

As we know, any decision to take action is the result of an analysis of multiple sources of knowledge and multiple interests which may be more or less conflicting. Leaders – often poorly prepared for the cross-cutting nature of these challenges – lack the tools for managing multi-dimensional situations. They must learn to deal with diversity, appreciate its contributions, but also learn to choose and act in the face of uncertainty. This means managing risks and preparing for failure, none of which is fully taught in standard education and training.

Editorial from the director

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Research, training and innovation are the three key areas of activity most countries now target for their development. A fourth and essential area underlying the first three is the quality of the connection between these target areas and the broader social, cultural and economic fabric. We call this the science/society relationship.

The advances of knowledge remain powerful and constitute a challenge which affects culture, citizen participation and democracy. And yet, in parallel, we can observe a growing divide between society and the scientific and technological world. In this context, IHEST stands out as forum where ideas and innovations can come together in an enlightened debate about the relations between science, innovation and society. The Institute gives shape to the debate and disseminates ideas via its training programmes and collaborative work among scientific and industrial leaders, elected officials and opinion-makers (journalists, union leaders, teachers, cultural mediators, etc.).

IHEST pursues a strategy of societal influence through its activities and by encouraging its participants to improve science/society relations thanks to their professional and civic involvement. In this way IHEST has become the venue in France where leaders from all types of professional backgrounds, and regardless of their culture, can come to gain insight and learn to better integrate the social and economic dimensions of the development of science and innovation in their respective domains.

Think and operate differently

The one-year training course

The programmes and teaching methods implemented at IHEST as part of its one-year training course are aimed at building a shared understanding of the relationship between science and society by providing scholars from diverse social and professional backgrounds with an ideal environment for reflection, encounter and debate.

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An annual theme

> 2013-2014 Science, innovation and digital technologies : questioning societies
> 2014-2015 Time of sciences, trajectories of societies

The aims are :
  • to understand the complexities of science and technological issues and their relationship to society and renew the scientific and technical culture
  • to stimulate the reflection of executives on their personal and professional responsibilities and prepare them to be the relays of this reflection in society
  • to develop a capacity to anticipate and to react when faced with new situations arising from advances in technology

  • An ambition
  • Objectives
  • Adapted courses

For each yearly cycle, the various working sessions focus on a selection of subjects from daily life, on specific issues or current affairs topics with a connection to scientific research.
A comparative, national and international approach is proposed.
The course also covers the main philosophical aspects of the relationship between science and culture, the economy, the organisation and governance of research and innovation, higher education and teaching.

IHEST’s approach

Between scientific thought and social representation

An open dialogue between scholars and speakers

Many top-ranking French and international figures are called upon to contribute during the one-year training course and the European summer school : French and foreign politicians, researchers, entrepreneurs, journalists, association directors...
At each session, speakers take part in open exchanges with a community of participants, united by a common interest. The discussions are enriched by the broad diversity of participants’ backgrounds, experiences and occupations. Confidentiality is a condition of participating in IHEST’s one-year course, which guarantees complete freedom of expression.

Meeting people in their working environment

In France or abroad, field study trips provide the opportunity to discover major facilities, cultural, scientific and industrial sites ; they are a chance to meet researchers, entrepreneurs and politicians ; to gain an understanding of the context and synergy between the different actors at various territorial levels : local, national, transnational.

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Each new scholars spends an “immersion day” with a former scholar in his or her work-place. This gives the opportunity to discover a different environment and new aspects of the science/society relationship.

Science/Society interface workshops

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Divided into four guided groups, scholars are invited to examine a research topic, an innovation or environmental question, etc. and its impact on society (e.g. Alzheimer’s disease, green cars, serious games, industrial design, eco-neighbourhoods and smart grids). At the conclusion of the workshop, they draw up a joint discovery report, analysing the dynamics among the different actors. These reports are the subject of a debate held at the end of the one-year course.

The European Summer school

This four-day course examines a topic in depth with a panel of participants representing society’s key players and principal actors in the field. The European Summer school uses teaching methods developed for the one-year course.
It examines issues from a European and international point of view and is supported by the European Union and both local and national partners according to the relevant theme. Presentations are high-level and a large share of the time is devoted to discussion between guest speakers and participants. In addition, the European summer school provides an opportunity for participants to meet local actors in their working environment : industrialists, elected officials, representatives of research and education institutions, etc.
Themes addressed by the European summer school give an overview of the relationship between science, innovation and society. Each summer session offers the opportunity to explore a different aspect and pinpoint strategic questions for the future.

Since 2009, the european summer school has focussed on the following topics :

Networking and public debate

Reflection Workshops

Created in 2010, the workshops are reflection and action groups set up by IHEST. Both think-tank and platform for the exchange of expertise in the field of science/society interactions, they help foster a better understanding of these relationships and their attendant debates. They clarify technical and symbolic terms and give direction to the learning process. They are also used to enrich IHEST’s teaching activities. The first workshops focussed on subjects including : “Which energy for which society ?” ; “A comparative study of Franco-Brazilian science/innovation/society relations” ; “The internationalisation of research” ; “Science and politics.”

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Regional Meetings

Open to the public and part of the one-year training course, these meetings foster debate on the science/society relationship, in a particular geographical area. The meetings are held with the support and participation of regional authorities, local industrial partners and the European Union (Bordeaux 2008, Metz 2009, Rennes 2010, Lyon 2010, Clermont-Ferrand 2011, Nantes 2012 and Montpellier 2013).

The association of former scholars

Former scholars meet within the AAIHEST which contributes to the IHEST reflections and animation of the public debate.

Dissemination of scientific culture

Meet the Researchers

Held in the early evening, with two or three highprofile speakers, these thematic discussions devote plenty of time for discussion with the audience.

Multimedia documentation

For the past six years, IHEST has compiled data and studies on a wide range of science/society issues. The Institute makes this documentation available in exceptional multimedia files.
in english :

in french :

La collection « Questions vives »

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Coéditée par les éditions Actes Sud et l’IHEST, cette collection répond à la nécessité de favoriser les relations entre sciences et société en élargissant la culture scientifique et la conscience des questions liées au développement de la recherche et de l’innovation. Elle diffuse les témoignages de spécialistes invités aux formations organisées par l’IHEST et les questionnements des participants :
> La Science en jeu (Novembre 2010)
> L’économie, une science qui nous gouverne ? Leçon des crises (Avril 2011)
> Quelle place pour la science dans le débat public ? (Janvier 2012)
> Partager la science : l’illettrisme scientifique en question (Mars 2013)
> Science et société : les normes en question (Mars 2014)

lundi 3 février 2014, par Olivier Dargouge