Science and Engineering Ethics

, Volume 19, Issue 4, pp 1533–1550 | Cite as

Preparing to Understand and Use Science in the Real World: Interdisciplinary Study Concentrations at the Technical University of Darmstadt

  • Wolfgang J. LiebertEmail author
Original Paper


In order to raise awareness of the ambiguous nature of scientific-technological progress, and of the challenging problems it raises, problems which are not easily addressed by courses in a single discipline and cannot be projected onto disciplinary curricula, Technical University of Darmstadt has established three interdisciplinary study concentrations: “Technology and International Development”, “Environmental Sciences”, and “Sustainable Shaping of Technology and Science”. These three programmes seek to overcome the limitations of strictly disciplinary research and teaching by developing an integrated, problem-oriented approach. For example, one course considers fundamental nuclear dilemmas and uses role-playing techniques to address a controversy in the area of nuclear security. At the same time, incorporating interdisciplinary teaching into a university that is organized around mono- or multi-disciplinary faculties also poses a number of challenges. Recognition in disciplinary curricula, and appropriate organizational support and funding are examples of those challenges. It is expected that science and engineering students, empowered by such interdisciplinary study programmes, will be better prepared to act responsibly with regard to scientific and technological challenges.


Additive interdisciplinarity Ambivalence Dispositional knowledge Dual-use Integrative interdisciplinarity Lifeworld Orientational knowledge Problem orientation Role play Science and technology Shaping knowledge Social responsibility Sustainability  



Input from colleagues at TU Darmstadt (where the author worked full-time until the end of 2012) in particular from Franz Fujara and Oliver Lieven, Liselotte Schebek, and Jochen Hack as well as fruitful discussions with the guest editors and the editor are gratefully acknowledged.


  1. Boyle, C., & Coates, G. T. K. (2005, Fall). Sustainability principles and practice for engineers. IEEE Technology and Society Magazine, 24(3), 32–39.Google Scholar
  2. Cooley, W., Klinkhachron, P., McConnell, R., & Middleton, N. (1991). Developing professionalism in the electrical engineering classroom. IEEE Transactions on Education, 34(2), 149–154.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  3. Doorn, N., & Kroesen, J. O. (2011). Using and developing role plays in teaching aimed at preparing for social responsibility. Science and Engineering Ethics, 19(4), this issue. doi: 10.1007/s11948-011-9335-6.
  4. Feenberg, A. (1999). Questioning technology. London/New York: Routledge.Google Scholar
  5. Frodeman, R. (Ed.). (2010). The Oxford handbook of interdisciplinarity. Oxford: Oxford University Press.Google Scholar
  6. Habermas, J. (1969). Analytische Wissenschaftstheorie und Dialektik (Analytical philosophy of science and dialectic). In T. W. Adorno, R. Dahrendorf, H. Pilot, H. Albert, J. Habermas, & K. R. Popper (Eds.), Der Positivismusstreit in der deutschen Soziologie (The dispute on positivism in German sociology) (pp. 155–191). Darmstadt: Luchterhand.Google Scholar
  7. Habermas, J. (1981). Theorie des kommunikativen Handelns. Frankfurt: Suhrkamp (English trans: The Theory of Communicative Action. Boston: Beacon 1984).Google Scholar
  8. Habermas, J. (1991). Edmund Husserl über Lebenswelt, Philosophie und Wissenschaft (E. Husserl about lifeworld, philosophy and science). In J. Habermas (Ed.), Texte und Kontexte (Texts and contexts) (pp. 34–48). Frankfurt: Suhrkamp.Google Scholar
  9. Herkert, J. (1997). Collaborative learning in engineering ethics. Science and Engineering Ethics, 3, 447–462.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  10. Hunger, I. (2013). Some personal notes on role plays as an excellent teaching tool. Commentary on “Using and developing role plays in teaching aimed at preparing for social responsibility”. Science and Engineering Ethics, 19(4), this issue. doi: 10.1007/s11948-013-9477-9.
  11. Husserl, E. (1956). Die Krise der europäischen Wissenschaften und die transzendentale Phänomenologie. In W. Biemel (Ed.), Edmund Husserl-Gesammelte Werke, Band VI (Collected Works, Vol. VI). Den Haag: Martinus Nijhoff. (English trans.: The Crisis of European Sciences and Transcendental Phenomenology. Evanston: Northwestern University Press 1970).Google Scholar
  12. Klein, Julie Thompson. (1990). Interdisciplinarity—history, theory and practice. Detroit: Wayne State University Press.Google Scholar
  13. Liebert, W. (1998). Ambivalenz von Forschung und Technik—Problemlöser oder Problemverursacher der globalen Krise (Ambivalence of science and technology—problem solver or creator of the global crisis). In W. Voigt & J. Scheffran (Eds.), Kampf um die Natur (Fight for nature) (pp. 179–195). Darmstadt: Wissenschaftliche Buchgesellschaft.Google Scholar
  14. Liebert, W. (2002). Wissenschaft jenseits der Wertfreiheitshypothese—Ambivalenz und Wertfreiheit versus Wertbindung und Gestaltung der Wissenschaft (Beyond the hypothesis of value-free science—ambivalence and value-free science versus value-laden science and shaping of science). In H.-J. Fischbeck & J. Schmidt (Eds.), Wertorientierte Wissenschaft—Perspektiven für eine Erneuerung der Aufklärung (Value-oriented science—perspectives for a renewal of the enlightenment) (pp. 61–83). Berlin: Sigma.Google Scholar
  15. Liebert, W. (2012). Wissenschaft und gesellschaftliche Verantwortung (Science and societal responsibility). In U. Banscherus, K. Himpele, & A. Keller (Eds.), Gut–besser–excellent? Qualität von Forschung, Lehre und Studium entwickeln (Good–better–excellent? Quality of research, teaching and studies) (pp. 97–107). Bielefeld: W. Bertelsmann.Google Scholar
  16. Liebert, W., & Schmidt, J. C. (2010). Towards a prospective technology assessment—challenges and requirements for technology assessment in the age of technoscience. Poesis and Praxis, 7, 99–116.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  17. Manion, M. (2002, Fall). Ethics, engineering, and sustainable development. IEEE Technology and Society Magazine, 21(3), 39–48.Google Scholar
  18. Michelsen, G. (2013). Sustainable development as a challenge for undergraduate students: The module “Science bears responsibility” in the Leuphana bachelor’s programme. Commentary on “A case study of teaching social responsibility to doctoral students in the climate sciences”. Science and Engineering Ethics, 19(4), this issue. doi: 10.1007/s11948-013-9489-5.
  19. Mittelstraß, J. (1982). Wissenschaft als Lebensform (Science as lifeform). Frankfurt: Suhrkamp.Google Scholar
  20. Mittelstraß, J. (1996). The modern world and the humanities. Interdisciplinary Science Reviews, 21(4), 284–291.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  21. Newberry, B. (2006, Winter). The fate of human technological civilization. IEEE Technology and Society Magazine, 25(4), 28–29.Google Scholar
  22. Sismondo, S. (2008). Science and technology studies and an engaged program. In E. Hackett, O. Amsterdamska, M. Lynch, & J. Wajcman (Eds.), The handbook of science and technology studies (3rd ed., pp. 13–31). Cambridge MA, London: MIT Press.Google Scholar
  23. Warhaft, Z. (2005, Summer). Teaching engineering in a social context. IEEE Technology and Society Magazine, 24(2), 32–39.Google Scholar
  24. Zandvoort. H. (Ed.) (2008). Preparing engineers for social responsibility. European Journal of Engineering Education, 33(2), Part 1, 133–195.Google Scholar
  25. Zandvoort, H., Børsen, T., Deneke, M. & Bird, S. J. (2013) Editors’ overview: Perspectives on teaching social responsibility to students in science and engineering. Science and Engineering Ethics, 19(4), this issue.Google Scholar

Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media Dordrecht 2013

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Institute of Safety/Security and Risk SciencesUniversity of Natural Resources and Applied Life Sciences (BOKU)ViennaAustria
  2. 2.Interdisciplinary Research Group in Science, Technology and Security (IANUS)Technical University of DarmstadtDarmstadtGermany

Personalised recommendations