FRANKFURT. The German Research Foundation yesterday announced eleven new Research Training Groups, two of which are located at Goethe University and focus on the social sciences. Offering new perspectives for young researchers who want to qualify in this field, the Research Training Group "Fixing Futures" ties in with the Master's program "Science and Technology Studies. Economies, Governance, Life" and the interdisciplinary research network "Lab for Studies in Science and Technology". Spokesperson is sociologist Prof. Thomas Lemke, with cultural anthropologist Prof. Dr. Gisela Welz acting as co-spokesperson.
Although people have always wondered what the future might hold, the question has never been as pressing as today. Contemporary societies find themselves confronted with new kinds of political, economic and ecological challenges – including, for example, in connection with global warming, pandemics and new refugee movements. In order to be prepared for the future, scenarios and problematic situations are anticipated, often focusing on technological solutions. The future is "fixed" – a term that holds a dual meaning: "On the one hand, it refers to the act of stabilising futures so that one can prepare for them. But on the other, it also connotes the act of repairing futures that are seen as deficient," explains Prof. Lemke, who will be working in the Research Training Group with eight other researchers. In addition to sociology and cultural anthropology, researchers from human geography are also involved in “Fixing Futures”.
How do you prepare for events that you expect to happen in the future? What precautions are taken? How are these decisions justified? What if the future turns out different and you are not prepared? Misjudgments of this kind can have serious repercussions. The Research Training Group will examine three areas: economies, governance and life. What is striking to spokesman Lemke is that technological solutions are offered in all areas – with the decisions often left to the individual. He points to the example of so-called social freezing, i.e. the conscious choice to postpone the desire to have children into the future in the interest of one's career. "Why aren't these issues discussed socially," he asks. Whether we are talking about a gene bank for extinct animal species or a switch to e-mobility, Lemke continues, people often rely on the credo that "technologies will save us" – when they could just as well be thinking about how to address the structural conditions of the problems. The question of power also plays a major role, Lemke points out, adding that nowhere is this more obvious than in the case of climate change: Those who suffer most from the consequences are neither responsible for the causes nor do they have any significant say in finding possible solutions.
A total of 14 positions must now be filled until the Research Training Group starts its work – ten for doctoral students and two for postdocs. According to Lemke, the Research Training Group will optimally prepare them for a wide range of professional fields and institutions in the academic sector and beyond.
The second new Research Training Group is entitled "Standards of Governance" and was jointly applied for by Goethe University and TU Darmstadt. Its spokesperson is Jens Steffek, Professor of Transnational Governance at TU Darmstadt. Democracy researcher Prof. Sandra Seubert will assume the role of deputy spokesperson. The cross-locational Research Training Group deals with the concept of "good governance", which comprises general norms such as transparency, participation and accountability of those in power. Initially, the Research Training Group will consist of two groups of ten doctoral students each. Seubert emphasizes that this is not just about recruiting young scientists: "In view of the tasks and problems facing democratic societies today, it is very important to train young people well for different areas of politics, and to connect the knowledge generated scientifically with society."
Funding for the two Research Training Groups "Fixing Futures" and "Standards of Governance" will begin on April 1, 2023, and initially run for five years. There is an option to continue the funding for another four years.