Excellence Strategy

Platform 4 topics

In addition to the Exploration Funds, in which topics are worked on in projects and by individuals already involved with Platform 4, the Platform wants to discuss certain focal points across the spectrum thereby involving not only scientists from all disciplines but also including the general public.

Focal Point »Application orientated research«

‘Application orientated research’ and ‘social relevance’ are two fundamental concepts for the University of Tübingen’s Future Concept.

However, there is no standardisable model for ‘application orientated research’, particularly with regards to the Human and Social Sciences. Moreover, the determination of what difference ‘social relevance’ actually makes to a project is most certainly disputed.

These questions are in the context of a long-running debate as to where science should position itself between theoretical knowledge and practical solutions orientation. The Human and Social scientific Platform 4, which was initiated within the framework of the Future Concept, considers one of its primary roles to be the taking up and continuing of such discussions.

On April 22nd 2015 the science studies researcher Professor David Kaldewey (University of Bonn) held a lecture titled “The double identity of science. On the differentiation of autonomy and practice discourses”. The lecture looked at self-perception and perception of others towards science in the area between the opposing poles of autonomy and relevancy to practice.

Traditionally, literature implies that scientific self-descriptions orientate themselves solely on intra-scientific knowledge ideals, while questions of usefulness above all in external descriptions, such as in the observation of science by politics or economy, are thematic.

David Kaldewey, however, using the example of multi-facetted historical reflective discourses, showed that this tension has always been present, even in science. David Kaldewey described this phenomenon as ‘double identity’ of science and analysed it with regards to its research practical consequences.

On July 8th 2015 the technology historian Dr. Désirée Schauz (TU Munich) visited Tübingen.

Her lecture ‘What is applied research? Insights from the terminology history of a scientific political word’ looked at the origins of different meanings and communicative functions of the scientific political phrase ‘applied research’ with terminology historical perspectives.

The term gained its central meaning for both national and international research politics in the second half of the twentieth century in the sense of an intermediary stage of the so-called linear model of technical innovation. Against the background of the scientific political shift of the focal point from fundamental to applied research Désirée Schauz discussed whether it makes sense to transfer the term to the Human and Social Sciences.

Focal point »Social relevance of historical Human Sciences«

Platform 4 ‘Education – Society – Norms – Ethical Reflection’ has the intention of linking the Human and Social Sciences‘ expertise into a competence network and accordingly is thematically and institutionally widely represented.

The research activities are orientated on the guidelines of the Future Concept ‘Research – Relevance – Responsibility’ and the focus is directed towards application orientated questions with social relevance. This leaves the Human and Cultural Sciences with a historical approach (‘historical’ in its widest meaning neither limited to the distant past nor in general to historical science) in a quandary with regards to current relevance and/or to application.

This does not concern justification or the self-image of the Human Sciences as a whole, nor the role of literature, art or general understanding of history in our society, but is rather a subquestion: In which way can results of historically aligned scientific research in the Human Sciences either alone or in research associations be seen as relevant in the context of current social questions?

This is a question conceived by and/or for Platform 4, but far beyond this it is a latent or even explicit question underlying many present social and research political discussions; it is not least a regularly discussed topic in research associations’ applications (DFG, BMBF, large institutes). Incidentally, this concerns variations of a known topic: In the pre-modern era the relevance question was understood in the sense of a historia magistra vitae; in the 19th century it was considered to already have been dealt with during the course of historism and the ‘objective’ researching of the past; in the 20th century there are numerous theoretical approaches with which the Human Sciences are attempting to overcome the positivism of the late 19th century. Currently, a constellation often arises in which the systematic social sciences provide the theoretical framework and the humanities provide the field of application. Is also here different hermeneutics conceivable? It is worth questioning anew how historical orientated Human Sciences research in context and in the consciousness of current questions could look.

In December 2014 an inaugural workshop brought together the representatives of, in the widest sense of the word, historically (or partially historically) orientated projects both from existing association projects and from the University of Tübingen’s Exploration Funds projects. The workshop aimed, based on the sketch mentioned above, to sound out what type of questions, problems and approaches to solutions are in the different projects (or also why no problem is seen here) and in which way the topic can be worked on together in Platform 4.

Topics in cooperation with platform 3


A workshop at the beginning of December brought together people from Platforms 3 and 4. Getting to know each other as well as the presentation of the aims and methods of the work groups took place against the background of different research on the subject of ‘water’.

Renewable resources

On April 29th 2015 Platform 3 held a public symposium in cooperation with Platform 4 on the subject of ‘Renewable resources/Bioeconomy’.

An accompanying seminar on the Studium Oecologicum course was offered in the 2015 summer semester.

Environmental justice

A public symposium on the subject of environmental justice is planned for the 2017 summer semester.

Sustainable development

The Competence Centre for Sustainable Development organised for the 2015/2016 winter semester a general course on the subject ‘Research for sustainable development – contributions of the University of Tübingen’. Numerous contributors from Platforms 3 and 4 presented their work in this series.