The aim of the Maastricht University Science, Technology and Society Studies (MUSTS) research programme is to study relationships between science, technology and society: the social construction of science and technology, the techno-scientific constitution of society and the interactions between science and technology. Within the broad fields of science, technology and society studies (STS), MUSTS research focuses on ‘cultures of innovation’. With ‘cultures’ we refer to the habitual, taken-for-granted and symbol-laden ways of understanding and acting upon the world in particular settings. We are interested in how settings are constituted by new knowledge, instruments, artefacts and skills. Our focus on ‘cultures of innovation’ means that we examine how change and innovation evolve in cultures such as the engineering workshop, the regulatory body, the laboratory, the audio studio, the science café or the hospital. This raises questions about the manifestation and mobilization of expertise, skills, risks and futures.
The MUSTS research programme has a strong coherence in terms of approach and methodology. Cultures of innovation are studied in a radically interdisciplinary way: the classic disciplines of sociology, history and philosophy play an important constituting role and we aim to integrate them into a common STS idiom, research style and set of methodological approaches. Sociological problems are historicised, historical questions are shown to have normative dimensions and ethical issues are studied as social phenomena. Analysis typically moves between different levels: from micro-level studies of local practices to macro-level questions of governance, policy and morality. The combination of different research styles is visible in our effort to write elegant and engaging prose, to pose counter-intuitive research questions and to combine empirics and theory in primarily qualitative and interpretative approaches. MUSTS research is adventurous in exploring a variety of theoretical and empirical fault lines, but it is always rigorous in its methodological approach, theoretical grounding and scholarly justifications. Our research also contributes to fields such as innovation studies, sound studies, development studies, ethics, and internet and new media studies. We start from STS but seek to contribute to debates in other academic disciplines or to discussions amongst the practitioners whom we study, and to engage with societal issues and policies.
MUSTS has several substantive research lines of varying sizes, including:
- Governance of risk and vulnerability: telecommunication standardisation, hospital safety, nanotechnology governance, livelihoods in India, risks of chemicals and low-intensity electromagnetic radiation, and computer simulations for water management.
- Technological cultures of sound: innovation in musical instruments, airport noise regulation, the epistemological status of sonic laboratory skills and the rise of car sound design.
- Media technologies in knowledge and culture: history of European broadcasting, digitisation of scientific and scholarly research practices, and digital cartography.
- Scientific research and innovation cultures: historical studies of the chemical industry, co-production of biological sciences and urban ecology, mutual shaping of international science and politics, and research collaboration and value systems.
- Techno-moral change: a special focus on life sciences and emerging technologies.