News & Events


Events Details

A Social Scientist in the Land of Frontier Science: My Experience with the European Research Council (ERC) ​By Prof. Dr. Helga Nowotny

Published on: 18-Jan-2016


When the European Research Council (ERC) was set up in 2007 with the aim to become a world-class funding agency for basic research, the scientific strategy was entrusted to twenty-two independent scientists. Nobody knew whether we would achieve our ambition.

Today, the ERC is widely acknowledged as a unique success story. I will reflect on my experience by putting the following issues into a general science policy context:

-          What does frontier research mean for innovation?

-          How can a peer-review system for scientific excellence accommodate interdisciplinary research?

-          Funding the social sciences & humanities: is it an issue?

-          Excellence attracts excellence: intended and unintended consequences 

-          What to fund: follow the scientists or the policy-makers?

My argument is for recognizing the importance of the radical openness of science for the future, while emphasizing the equally important task of opening science towards society.


Helga Nowotny is Professor emerita of Social Studies of Science, ETH Zurich, and a founding member of the European Research Council. In 2007 she was elected ERC Vice President and from March 2010 until December 2013 President of the ERC. Recently, she has been appointed Chair of the ERA Council Forum Austria.

She received doctorates honoris causa from several European universities and a Ph.D. honoris causa from the Weizmann Institute of Science, Israel. Helga Nowotny has published widely in social studies of science and technology and on social time. Her new book, The Cunning of Uncertainty, was just released by Polity Press.

28 January 2016

Time: 12:00 to 1:30 pm

Venue: LT10 (Block NS4; NS4-04-41)

Public lecture with a catered buffet lunch outside of the LT10, starting at 11:30am


Back to listing