On May 6th and 7th I had the opportunity to attend 12th Annual Conference of the Institute for Advanced Studies on Science, Technology and Society in Graz, Austria and present some of my research. The conference was a fairly small, intimate conference, with lots of time for networking and discussions among participants.
The conference provided a great opportunity for me to learn more about the field of “STS,” or “Science, Technology and Society,” a term widely used in Europe, although there are also many programs in the US (but these tend to use the term Science and Technology Studies). The field is relatively new and draws heavily on history of science studies. In terms of broader disciples, it is most closely associated with Sociology, although the nature of its subject lends the field to be highly interdisciplinary. While I was familiar with many of the topics and literature addressed at the conference, I had not placed them previously in the framework of STS, and it was helpful to understand how my research fit within this field.
I presented in a session on agriculture and food security. My presentation focused on the results of two of the case studies I conducted last summer in collaboration with the GEF (projects in Ethiopia and Peru) because both of these projects had a strong agriculture focus. I addressed the wide range of technologies being promoted by the projects, and some of the unique challenges that agricultural adaptation may pose for the technology transfer process. My presentation was well-received, and I had many interesting follow-up conversations, including with a former technology transfer in agriculture expert at Nestle and an Austrian agrofood company. He shared some great insights into technology transfer challenges he had faced (including very successfully introducing strawberries to Morocco!)
There were many interesting presentations throughout the conference, but one of the most relevant for me was a keynote address on the role of public procurement for driving innovation. Although the presentation was in the context of European domestic public procurement, it offered some valuable insights into potential framing of the role of development projects in promoting technology transfer and innovation for adaptation.
Graz is a really beautiful city, although unfortunately it was raining most of the time I was there, so I didn’t get much of a chance to explore. Although it is Austria’s second largest city, it is quite small, with a population of 265,000, making it easy to get around on foot (they also have a well-developed tram and bus network too though). The center of the city has been declared a UNESCO World Heritage Site, and we had the opportunity to view the city from the balcony of the city council at a special lunch hosted by the mayor for the conference.