Masterclass in Societal Security

ASSERT Masterclass Feb14 37

Dr. Reinhard KREISSL, coordinator of
ASSERT, opening remarks at the Masterclass

The first ASSERT Masterclass in Societal Security took place in Stirling in February 2014. During the event, hosted by ASSERT project partner Stirling University, 30 security experts explored ways in which societal impact assessments (SIA) can be integrated into European research proposals and projects in the security domain. This will be a requirement of research funded by the European Commission H2020 programme, as the need to put greater emphasis on more comprehensively embedding the societal dimension of security research has been acknowledged on many occasions (e.g. in the European Commission’s 2012 Action Plan for an innovative and competitive Security Industry {SWD(2012) 233 final}).

The Masterclass is an innovative, participatory training format, which in a shared learning environment enables its participants to reflect on the consequences a better consideration of the societal dimension can have on security research and the resulting technologies and measures.

ASSERT endorses the Commission’s endeavours for a better integration of the societal dimension. Action needs to be taken in this regard in at least these directions:

  1. Thoroughly assess social impacts including impacts on fundamental rights;
    Open up research on security measures and technologies to more participatory and inclusive approaches;
  2. Create mechanisms to test the societal impact as early as possible, i.e. in the “design phase” of a security technology or measure. It is during the R&D phase that impact assessment mechanisms can lead to fruitful results;
  3. Take the consequences of a SIA on a research project or proposal seriously: After all, the findings of an assessment could alter the very objectives of a research project.

The ASSERT Masterclass enables participants to enhance their knowledge and competence in all aspects related to the assessment of impacts of security research. This includes a good understanding of some core elements:

  • What societal security is, how societal security is embedded in Horizon 2020 and how SIA differs from other types of ethics review;
  • What is meant by the term societal/social impact assessment (SIA), its core underlying concepts and theoretical approaches, the different methodologies used to deliver SIA, and the perceived benefits and potential barriers to a successful SIA;
  • How to put an SIA into practice and of how to construct an SIA report, with an emphasis on ‘best practice’ criteria;
  • Insight into how the undertaking of an SIA has organisational ramifications and should not be considered as a neutral process.

In its delivery, the Masterclass also relies on test cases and group exercises, in which participants can examine and practice the design of an SIA process for a large European research proposal / project. The Masterclass was a great success and will be repeated in Brussels, in April, as part of the ASSERT Final Conference.


What participants of the First ASSERT Masterclass have to say:

“I found that the Masterclass provided a very good introduction into the topic of societal impact assessment. It brought a lot of very interesting people together, people I might have had difficulties to meet otherwise as they are usually not part of my research network (engineering vs. social sciences).”

“The outline of the Masterclass was well structured and the learning outcomes very well-conceived.”

“I enjoyed the group activity; interactive learning is always more effective, especially working with others from very different backgrounds.”

“The discussion sessions were good and the group size was excellent.”

“I liked the interactive character and it was also a very welcoming, open and non-threatening environment.”

“I really liked the interaction among the participants and the proactive and the proactive approach.”

“I liked the opportunity for networking and exchange of ideas with other colleagues from other areas. Being a natural scientist, it was also useful to be introduced to some areas/techniques of social impact new to me.”