Working group "Social Resilience"
Exploring Social Resilience
Social resilience is a dynamic field of study that examines the ability of individuals, communities and societies to withstand and recover from various challenges and adversities, and to cope, adapt and transform social structures to better cope with future disturbances.
A particular form of 'threat' has emerged as climate change, pandemics, resource depletion, biodiversity loss or antibiotic resistance become chronic, overwhelming grand challenges for humanity: Threats that require some involvement of science in their definition and resolution, and that are highly contested among societal actors. Our group is dedicated to exploring resilience in such "socio-scientific dilemmas".
The working group, founded in 2022, consists of multidisciplinary researchers from 11 disciplines (communication science, computer science, economics, geography education, history, human geography, law, political science, psychology, sociology and theology) who offer their perspectives to conceptualise and investigate social resilience in socio-scientific dilemmas.
Research on resilience has flourished over the last decade. However, there are two urgent needs for further work that we address in our working group: the need (1) to integrate ideas on resilience from different disciplines, and (2) to explore resilience processes specifically for cases in which science and scientific evidence plays an important role.
(1) Integration of resilience concepts
Ideas and theories about resilience are often dispersed across disciplines with little or no exchange. For example, geographical notions of resilience are often located at a systemic or technical level; psychological theories focus on the individual's coping with stress; sociological theories focus on the social construction of resilience and the role of social structure. Often, the different approaches do not benefit from each other because they focus on their each specific disciplinary perspectives. Our working group aims to integrate ideas and findings on resilience from different disciplines and to develop a common concept of social resilience that is useful across disciplines and contexts.
(2) Focusing on social resilience for socio-scientific dilemmas
We focus our research on social resilience on the concept of a 'socio-scientific dilemma' as a particular and timely challenge across many issues. A 'socio-scientific dilemma' is a situation in which people's lives and livelihoods, and the integrity of societal structures, are under serious threat, and where contributions from science are essential to identify the scale and intensity of the threat. Scientific evidence is needed or available (but not always used) to guide the search for appropriate actions and solutions. This has far-reaching and as yet unexplored implications for social resilience: For example, the focus of research is shifting towards the societal negotiation and implementation of scientific knowledge to cope with a disruption. Uncertainty of scientific information, misinformation, hate speech, delegitimisation of scientific institutions, distrust in legal and democratic processes all contribute to weakening resilience in such situations. By focusing on the 'socio-scientific dilemma', we extend resilience research beyond narrow, acute crises and examine situations in which science plays a major role. This allows us to generalise our findings across different issues and to extrapolate our findings to future, as yet unknown, cases.
How can digitalisation serve the sustainability transformation? Which governmental interventions are needed? Prof. Dr. Angela Oels was local host of a 3-day international and interdisciplinary conference that addressed these questions.
Together with colleagues Martin Greisel and Robin Stark, Ingo Kollar recently edited a Research Topic entitled "Evidence-informed reasoning of pre- and in-service teachers" in the journal Frontiers in Education.