Helga Nowotny (born 1937) is President of the European Research Council () and Professor emeritus of Social Studies of Science, ETH Zurich. From 1998 on she was also Director of its Collegium Helveticum. She has been founding director of the post-graduate fellowship programme based at ETH “Society in science: the Branco Weiss Fellowship” until 2004, when she returned to her native Vienna. She received her doctorate in law at the University of Vienna and her Ph. D. in sociology at Columbia University, New York. She has held teaching and research positions at the Institute of Advanced Study in Vienna, King's College, Cambridge, UK, the University of Bielefeld, the Wissenschaftszentrum Berlin and the École des Hautes Études en Sciences Sociales in Paris. In 1981-1982 and 2003-2004 she was a Fellow at the Wissenschaftskolleg zu Berlin and from 1992-1999 Permanent Fellow at Collegium Budapest/Institute of Advanced Study. Before moving to ETH Zurich, she has been Professor and Head of the newly founded Institute for Theory and Social Studies of Science of the University of Vienna.
Research and publications
Her research interests have moved from macrosociology and its methodology (her Ph. D. thesis) to social studies of science and technology (STS). Her work in the 70s and 80s includes topics such as scientific controversies and technological risks, social time, coping with uncertainty, self-organization in science and gender relations in science, resulting in major monographs, co- edited and edited books and numerous articles. The book Eigenzeit (1987) has been translated into several languages and between 1992 and 1995 Helga Nowotny has been President of the International Society for the Study of Time. From the 90s onwards she focused her research activities on new topics in social studies of science and technology. She conducted an empirical study on the discovery of high-superconductivitity research and its impact on research policy (with Ulrike Felt) and increasingly on the changing relationship between science and society. Together with Michael Gibbons and Peter Scott she is the author of Re-Thinking Science (2001), a sequel to the influential The New Production of Knowledge (1994). Her latest works include an edited book on Cultures of Technology and the Quest for Innovation (2006) and a monograph on Insatiable curiosity: Innovation in a fragile future, which was published in German in 2005, in Italian in 2006 and in English by MIT Press in 2008. She is also co-author of The Public Nature of Science Under Assault (2005). She has published more than 250 articles in scientific journals. Together with molecular biologist Giuseppe Testa she is currently working on a book project that traces the impact of the life sciences on society.
Next to her teaching and research activities, carried out at several universities and research institutions in Europe, Helga Nowotny has always been intensely engaged in research policy. From 1985-1992 she was Chair of the Standing Committee for the Social Sciences of the European Science Foundation. She has been chair and member of the scientific advisory boards of numerous research institutions and policy-related committees throughout Europe. Currently, she is Chair of the International Advisory Board of the University of Vienna. From 2001 until early 2006 she was Chair of EURAB, the European Research Advisory Board of the European Commission. She is currently Vice President of the ERC, which has been established to fund frontier research at EU level based on the sole criteria of scientific excellence and pan-European competition.
Awards and Prizes
Helga Nowotny is a Member of Academia Europaea and Foreign Member of the Royal Swedish Academy of Sciences since 2006. Among other honours she has been awarded the J.D. Bernal Prize for her lifelong achievements in social studies of science.