1963-2013 - 50 years of Research for Social Change

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Technology and Society


The world is caught up in a rapidly accelerating process of scientific and technological change that can benefit the majority of humankind or, on the contrary, only benefit the few. This programme examined the politics and economics of efforts to ensure that new technologies are used in socially responsible ways.

In market economies, where the uses of technology are heavily determined by decisions made in private research institutions and companies, there is a constant tension between the desire of the private sector to maximize profits, and the expectation on the part of the public that new products and techniques will meet (perhaps less profitable) social needs. This gives rise to various forms of public regulation and to a continuing test of strength between public interest groups, the scientific research community and the corporations whose use of new technologies has direct effects on the economy, society and natural environment.

UNRISD work in this area drew on case studies and debates at national and international levels to explore ways of encouraging a more socially responsible use of science and technology in a number of fields, including information technology, biotechnology and genetic engineering. It also drew on broader studies of corporate responsibility, often generated in relation to social and environmental issues.

Research projects carried out under this Programme Area are listed on the right.