About the project

BIOCIVIS − Participation to ensure the benefits of sustainability and social participation in the bioeconomy

Biotechnological processes such as the production of chemicals, wastewater treatment or the production of biogas are important parts of a bio-based economy already today. By reducing CO2 emissions and using biomass instead of fossil resources, these technologies have the potential to contribute to improving the sustainability of many other processes. However, biotechnological processes are often are often viewed critically in public perception.  With regard to certain processes, this attitude is primarily based on the use of genetic engineering. While science and industry often attribute this critical attitude to a lack of scientific knowledge on the part of citizens, its causes are actually more diverse, and include among others low trust in certain actors. At the same time, the participation of citizens in pioneering decisions (e.g. the energy revolution) is currently considered desirable. Thus, a careful design of participation processes focussing on technically and economically complex topics is needed. They ought to bring citizens and other social actors, politicians, and companies into an equal dialogue in which different forms of knowledge and values are legitimate and through which the development of viable results can succeed.

Against this background, the inter- and transdisciplinary research project BIOCIVIS (“Partizipation zur Sicherung des Nachhaltigkeitsnutzens und der gesellschaftlichen Teilhabe (in) der Bioökonomie”) raises the question: Through which participatory processes can the benefits of bio-economic technologies be socially secured and democratic participation be strengthened at the same time? In order to answer this question, participatory formats for securing the sustainability benefit and social participation in microbial biotechnology processes will be developed and tested in course of the project and of inter- and transdisciplinary cooperation. To this end, a close cooperation between political scientists and biologists of the University of Muenster as well as the integration of microbial biotechnology companies, civil society actors and citizens in multi-stage participation processes is being pursued.

BIOCIVIS is led by Prof. Doris Fuchs (Institute for Political Science, University of Muenster) in collaboration with Prof. Bodo Philipp (Institute for Molecular Microbiology and Biotechnology, University of Muenster) as members of the Center for Interdisciplinary Sustainability Research (ZIN). The project is funded the Federal Ministry of Education and Research (BMBF, funding number 031B0780) during its three-year term (November 2019 until October 2022) as part of the concept "Bioökonomie als gesellschaftlicher Wandel".