Technological developments bring with them many advantages, but also risks. Dealing with these presents us with major challenges.
Technological developments bring with them many advantages, but also risks. Dealing with these presents us with major challenges. istock/AndreyPopov

Headline: Systemic Risks

In an increasingly complex world, the consequences of human interventions in the environment and society are becoming more and more unpredictable. While technological developments and societal change have brought many benefits, they are also causing unforeseeable changes, posing major challenges for our society. This interdisciplinary research group focuses on systemic risks characterised by a high degree of complexity and interconnectedness. It addresses questions such as: What opportunities and risks are associated with global transformation processes such as increasing digitalisation and the transition to a climate-friendly society? What chain reactions can systemic risks trigger in society, and how do they spread regionally, nationally and globally? What mechanisms of risk perception influence the development of systemic risks? How has the precautionary principle been applied in the European Union, and how can it be improved by involving different stakeholders?

The scientists in this research group analyse the complexity, uncertainty and ambiguity of risks characterised by interdependencies among technology, nature and society. Based on this analysis, they aim to identify common patterns and structural features of systemic risks. Their ultimate goal is to develop political instruments and transdisciplinary governance mechanisms to implement research results transformatively towards sustainable development and to reduce the negative impacts of systemic risks.


Systemic Risks

This project identifies the structural features common to systemic risks like climate change, financial crises and digitalisation. The overall goal is to develop robust, enhanced governance instruments to support the management of such risks and to protect critical infrastructure and utilities.

Disaster Resilience for Extreme Climate Events (DIRECTED)

The recent droughts and unprecedented floods in central Europe have disclosed our vulnerability to extreme weather events. Besides climate change as a driver of more frequent and intensifying weather extremes, demographic change and socio-economic development exacerbate severe impacts. The project "Disaster Resilience for Extreme Climate Events" (DIRECTED) aspires to foster disaster-resilient European societies with improved risk governance.


REAL_DEAL will reshape the active participation of citizens and stakeholders around the European Green Deal. This transdisciplinary project brings together researchers of deliberative democracy from a wide range of disciplines, including political science, law, sociology, and psychology. The researchers will collaborate with the EU´s largest civil society networks and NGOs to reach millions of citizens and thousands of policymakers.

Modernizing Hazard Indicators

Chemical hazard assessment is a key element of the European Green Deal. A group of Helmholtz researchers has developed innovative hazard indicators, which they intend to discuss with stakeholders from industry and regulatory authorities as part of this project. A result of this will be a strategy paper with concrete proposals for policymakers.

Completed Projects

REconciling sCience, Innovation and Precaution through the Engagement of Stakeholders (RECIPES)

The precautionary principle is supposed to prevent environmental and health risks from arising in the first place. It encourages early and forward-looking action to minimise risks, for example in the use of nanotechnologies or pesticides. Critics of the precautionary principle argue, however, that it promotes excessive caution and hinders technological innovation. The project "REconciling sCience, Innovation and Precaution through the Engagement of Stakeholders" (RECIPES) aims to analyse how the precautionary principle is applied in the European Union and improve its future application with recourse to participatory methods.

Analysis and Categorisation of Hazards with High Crisis Potential

The corona pandemic has revealed the vulnerability and crisis susceptibility of complex societies that are globally highly interdependent and linked with one another. Within the scope of a study carried out by the Office of Technology Assessment at the German Bundestag, IASS researchers are making an analysis of hazards with high crisis potential.

Plastic: Social Perception and Behaviour Patterns

Despite the adoption of advanced waste disposal and recycling systems, plastic continues to enter the environment through littering, illegal dumping, and the use of waste-based fertilisers in farming. Researchers at the IASS are studying the issue of plastic pollution and how plastics are purchased, used, and disposed. Their findings will inform the development of proposals for transdisciplinary solutions.