Eurograd message

Message posted on 07/11/2018

Call for Papers for Special Track "Luck as a Challenge for the Responsible Governance of Science and Technology"

Dear Colleagues,

It is with great pleasure to hereby invite you to submit abstracts for our special track on “Luck as a Challenge for the Responsible Governance of Science and Technology” held at next year’s SPT Conference at A&M University, Texas (20-22 May, 2019).

Please submit your abstracts of 300 words until December 1st, via Easychair:
Please make sure to mention at the top of the page that your abstract is for the special track “Luck as a Challenge for the Responsible Governance of Science and Technology”.

For more information about the conference, please visit:

If you have any questions regarding this, do not hesitate to contact me.
Best wishes

Dr. Martin Sand
TU Delft
Department of Values, Technology and Innovation
Faculty of Technology, Policy and Management
Jaffalaan 5
2628 BX Delft
The Netherlands
+31 (0) 15 27 87885

Luck as a Challenge for the Responsible Governance of Science and Technology
Martin Sand & Samantha Copeland

The role played by luck in scientific and technological development has clear implications for forward- and backward-looking science policies. This track invites contributions that shed a critical light on the specific challenges that luck poses for the responsible governance of science and technology.

It is widely acknowledged that serendipity is ubiquitous in both science and technology. The discoveries of Penicillin and radioactivity, Nylon and Teflon, to name some famous examples, were deeply entangled with chance. If we accept that luck plays a major role in what might generically be termed innovation processes, this poses a fundamental challenge to their responsible governance. It has been suggested that even highly popular strategies such as Responsible Research and Innovation (RRI) cannot ensure the social desirability of innovations. The effectiveness of forward-looking policies thus becomes dubious in the light of luck’s power to fundamentally change the course of innovation. The fairness of backward-looking measures such as the attribution of responsibility and blame might also be questioned: How can one justify that some people receive praise for scientific discoveries or technological advancements, which were partially beyond their control? Furthermore, the ‘light bulb moment’ paradigm, which assigns responsibility for discovery to individuals, seems to neglect the often-collective nature of serendipitous discoveries. We see the problem of luck in science and technology as an instance of the paradox of moral luck, which remains deeply unsettling after decades of intense philosophical debate.
To advance our understanding of luck’s challenge for the responsible governance of science and technology, we encourage contributions that:

1. Discuss the relationship between luck, or serendipity, and responsibility. Comparisons could be made between cultural or disciplinary approaches to innovation and chance.
2. Consider how to govern innovation processes in order to diminish chance or utilize it better.
3. Discuss notions of fairness and desert in relation to responsibility ascriptions for chancy discoveries and technologies.
4. Examine case studies that highlight the role of chance in science or technological development.
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