Social science research on the destabilisation and phase-out of socio-technical systems
The WAYS-OUT project aims to improve the understanding and governance of socio-technical transitions, by specifically focusing on its flipsides: destabilisation, decline, and phase-out. This implies shifting the gaze away from novelty creation and innovation processes within transitions dynamics.
WAYS-OUT pursues the following objectives:
- Understanding destabilisation processes via conceptual elaboration and the development of a typology of destabilisation pathways
- Exploring the contributions of a plurality of knowledge perspectives to the analysis of destabilisation processes
- Exploring a variety of destabilisation pathways in empirical cases spanning multiple domains (energy, mobility, agri-food), contexts (geographical and historical), with a focus on comparison and maximising the variation of observed destabilisation patterns.
- Informing destabilisation governance by focusing on deliberate phase-out strategies, policy instrumentation and its evaluation, political choices, and the politics of knowledge and expertise.
Accordingly, WAYS-OUT is guided by the following research questions:
- How can destabilisation be understood and governed?
- What does this focal shift (away from novelty creation) imply for what is known about transitions and associated challenges?
These research questions can be further broken down and operationalised:
- What are the mechanisms and conditions for destabilisation processes?
- How can the comparative analysis of destabilisation patterns be carried out?
- How can we make sense of the variety of possible destabilisation trajectories?
- What destabilisation governance strategies can be envisaged?
- What kinds of knowledge and expertise are relevant for destabilisation research and governance?
WAYS-OUT mobilises a range of disciplines and perspectives:
- A socio-technical perspective, grounded in transitions studies and innovation studies. This is the main perspective put forward for conceptual development and empirical case studies in different sectors (energy, mobility, agri-food).
- A techno-economic modelling perspective, primarily related to Integrated Assessment Models (IAMs), and exploring how destabilisation processes can be modelled.
- A politics of knowledge and expertise perspective, oriented towards understanding how destabilisation processes and phase-out objectives reconfigure epistemic communities.