Special Issue: Technology Assessment for addressing Grand Societal Challenges

IEEE Transactions on  ENGINEERING MANAGEMENTSpecial Issue: Technology Assessment for addressing Grand Societal Challenges

Guest Editors

  • Professor George Kuk, Nottingham Trent University,
  • Professor Marijn Janssen, Delft University of Technology, 
  • Dr Isam Faik, National University of Singapore,


Contemporary public discourses increasingly recognize the need to address major social and environmental challenges in order to guarantee a sustainable future for humanity (George, Howard-Grenville, Joshi, & Tihanyi, 2016). These ‘Grand Societal Challenges’ call for collective action and responsible innovation to attain our shared visions of the future as embodied, for example, in inter-governmental frameworks such as the UN Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) (Voegtlin & Scherer, 2017). The UN identifies technological innovation as one of the main means of achieving these goals, but also stresses the need for new technologies that do not perpetuate historical patterns of environmental degradation and increased inequality (United Nations, 2015). This dual effect of technology as both an enabler and a constraint to the achievement of SDGs highlights the need for effective approaches to Technology Assessment (TA) that can support the evaluation of both the risks and the opportunities embodied in new technologies (van Wezel et al., 2018). Yet, despite the critical need for appropriate TA frameworks and tools in the pursuit of SDGs, little is known about the roles and forms of TA in relation to the Grand Societal Challenges (Delvenne, 2017; Van Lente, Swierstra, & Joly, 2017; van Oudheusden, 2014). This special issue aims to fill this gap in our knowledge by soliciting and encouraging research on the assessment of emerging technologies in relation to their potential to address or exacerbate Grand Societal Challenges.

The origins of TA have been linked to the formation of the US Office for Technology Assessment in the 1960s as a means of assessing the impacts of technology upon society (Van Lente et al., 2017). This expert-based approach, however, has been challenged by the observations that the societal impacts of technology emerge from the co-production of technology and society, as well as the normativity of the visions of society that drive technological developments (Russell, Vanclay, & Aslin, 2010; Swanson & Ramiller, 1997). Subsequent approaches to TA have responded to these challenges by advocating the inclusion of a wider group of stakeholders in the TA process, resulting in what has been dubbed participatory TA (Ely, Van Zwanenberg, & Stirling, 2014; Van Lente et al., 2017). Such deliberative processes (Voegtlin & Scherer, 2017), align with new forms of innovation governance commonly referred to as Responsible Innovation (RI) (Ruggiu, 2019), which promotes an ‘inverted TA’, moving away from the expert assessment of potential impacts and towards an assessment of the way the public may respond to new technologies (Coates, 2016, p.108). As such, TA under RI moves from a preventative to a prospective stance, from passive responsibility based on duties or liability to active responsiveness based on quality.

However, despite the significant developments in TA, assessment of emerging technologies, such as those commonly subsumed under the term ‘Fourth Industrial Revolution’ (4iR) (e.g. Artificial Intelligence (AI), Distributed Ledger Technology (DLT), Blockchain), remains problematic. This is mostly due to the high levels of uncertainty associated with their evolution, including their entanglement with rapidly changing cultural norms and social relations (Lin, 2011). Thus, while we frequently look to emerging technologies for addressing societal challenges (van Wezel et al., 2018), the processes through which we can anticipate both their positive and negative consequences remain ambiguous. Existing approaches to TA face a number of issues that limit their effectiveness. For example, the more deliberative approaches to the assessment of emerging technologies tend to neglect the politics of deliberation (van Oudheusden, 2014), which results in the marginalization of the more vulnerable groups that lack the economic, political and cultural resources to engage in collective debates (Delvenne, 2017).

In acknowledging the urgency of addressing Grand Societal Challenges, as well as the potential of technological innovation in responding to this urgency, this call for papers encourages cross-disciplinary research into TA for emerging technologies that have the potential to contribute to or address Grand Societal Challenges. We encourage diverse perspectives on appropriate roles and forms of TA, highlighting potential blind spots of contemporary TA approaches, as well as key success factors and enablers through empirical research and case studies. While maintaining the underlying premise of TA in the context of Grand Societal Challenges, the following topic areas are suggested as guidance for author submissions:

  • New approaches to technology assessment in relation to Grand Societal Challenges
  • Shortcomings and failures of contemporary approaches to technology assessment with respect to emerging technologies
  • Key success factors for ‘responsible’ technology assessment
  • The role of the public sector in assessing emerging technologies with respect to Grand Societal Challenges 
  • The role of the private sector in assessing emerging technologies with respect to Grand Societal Challenges 
  • Specific approaches to the assessment of 4iR technologies in support of SDGs
  • Visions and socio-technical futures related to 4iR technologies and their role in addressing or exacerbating Grand Societal Challenges 
  • Politics and power relations in the assessment of emerging technologies as they relate to addressing Grand Societal Challenges
  • New forms of governance

Notes for Prospective Authors:

Submitted papers should not have been previously published nor be currently under consideration for publication elsewhere. 

Conference papers may only be submitted if the paper has been completely re-written and if appropriate written permissions have been obtained from any copyright holders of the original paper.

Manuscripts should be submitted through the publisher’s online system. Submissions will be reviewed according to the journal’s rigorous standards and procedures through double-blind peer review by at least two qualified reviewers. 

Submission Process: 

Please prepare the manuscript according to IEEE-TEM’s guidelines ( and submit to the journal’s Manuscript Central site ( Please clearly state in the cover letter that the submission is for this special issue. 


  • Full paper first submission: September 1st, 2020
  • Publication of Special Issue: Autumn 2021


Coates, J. F. (2016). From my perspective A 21st century agenda for technology assessment. Technological Forecasting & Social Change, 113, 107–109.

Delvenne, P. (2017). Responsible research and innovation as a travesty of technology assessment? Journal of Responsible Innovation, 4(2), 278–288.

Ely, A., Van Zwanenberg, P., & Stirling, A. (2014). Broadening out and opening up technology assessment: Approaches to enhance international development, co-ordination and democratisation. Research Policy, 43(3), 505–518.

George, G., Howard-Grenville, J., Joshi, A., & Tihanyi, L. (2016). Understanding and tackling societal grand challenges through management research. Academy of Management Journal, 59(6), 1880–1895.

Lin, A. C. (2011). Technology Assessment 2.0. Brooklyn Law Review, 76(4), 1309–1370. Retrieved from

Ruggiu, D. (2019). Models of Anticipation Within the Responsible Research and Innovation Framework: the Two RRI Approaches and the Challenge of Human Rights. NanoEthics, 13(1), 53–78.

Russell, A. W., Vanclay, F. M., & Aslin, H. J. (2010). Technology Assessment in Social Context: The case for a new framework for assessing and shaping technological developments. Impact Assessment and Project Appraisal, 28(2), 109–116.

Swanson, E. B., & Ramiller, N. C. (1997). The Organizing Vision in Information Systems Innovation. Organization Science, 8(5), 458–474.

United Nations. (2015). Transforming our world: The 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development. Retrieved from Agenda for Sustainable Development web.pdf

Van Lente, H., Swierstra, T., & Joly, P.-B. (2017). Responsible innovation as a critique of technology assessment. Journal of Responsible Innovation, 4(2), 254–261.

van Oudheusden, M. (2014). Where are the politics in responsible innovation? European governance, technology assessments, and beyond. Journal of Responsible Innovation, 1(1), 67–86.

van Wezel, A. P., van Lente, H., van de Sandt, J. J. M., Bouwmeester, H., Vandeberg, R. L. J., & Sips, A. J. A. M. (2018). Risk analysis and technology assessment in support of technology development: Putting responsible innovation in practice in a case study for nanotechnology. Integrated Environmental Assessment and Management, 14(1), 9–16.

Voegtlin, C., & Scherer, A. G. (2017). Responsible Innovation and the Innovation of Responsibility: Governing Sustainable Development in a Globalized World. Journal of Business Ethics, 143, 227–243.

Guest Editor bios

Professor Kuk is professor of Innovation and Entrepreneurship at the Nottingham Business School, Nottingham Trent University. His main research areas include the governance of the coproduction of open source software, hardware, data and design. In particular, his research examines the behavioral manifests of creativity among a new class of creative altruists and entrepreneurs. He has published several articles in leading journals such as Management Science, Journal of Business Ethics, and Technological Forecasting & Social change.  He has received multiple research grants from the UK research councils including AHRC, EPSRC, and British Academy. Some of his current research involves international collaboration on research projects such as: blockchain and food security in South Africa, and heritage and street art in Malaysia.

Prof.dr. Marijn Janssen is a full Professor in ICT & Governance at the Faculty of Technology, Policy and Management of Delft University of Technology. His research is focused on ICT-driven innovation in which multiple public and private organizations need to collaborate, there are various ways to proceed, and socio-technical solutions are constrained by organizational realities and political wishes. He is Co-Editor-in-Chief of Government Information Quarterly (CiteScore of 6,97 in 2018), chair of the IFIP WG8.5 in ICT and public administration, conference chair of IFIP EGOV-CeDEM–ePart series. He was nominated in 2018 by Apolitical as one of the 100 most influential people in the Digital Government worldwide More information:

Dr Isam Faik is an Assistant Professor of Information Systems and Analytics at the National University of Singapore (NUS). His research investigates the complex relationship between digital technologies and societal change. His current projects focus on the effects of digital platforms on the nature of work, collective action, and social innovation. Results of his work appear in leading journals and conference proceedings within the fields of Information Systems and Organization Studies. He holds a Ph.D. in Management Studies from the Judge Business School, University of Cambridge.

IEEE Transactions on Engineering Management is journal of the Technology and Engineering Management Society of IEEE, published quarterly since 1954. It is dedicated to the publication of peer-reviewed original contributions, by researchers and practitioners, regarding the theory and practice of engineering, technology, and innovation management.

Editor in Chief

Tugrul U Daim, PhD PICMET Fellow

Professor and Director

Technology Management Doctoral Program

Department of Engineering and Technology Management

Maseeh College of Engineering and Computer Science

Portland State University, Portland OR

United States

About the author

Ravikiran Annaswamy

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