Accepted Paper:

The experimental setting as an epistemic regime in the German energy system transition  


Franziska Engels (WZB Berlin Social Science Center)
Dagmar Simon (WZB Berlin Social Science Center)

Paper short abstract:

The presentation is an empirical investigation of the formation and functioning of an epistemic regime. Within the experimental setting of a regional real-world laboratory the generation of a common knowledge base happens through a selection of plural forms of evidence.

Paper long abstract:

The German energy system transition is characterized by complex kinds of knowledge, a high degree of non-knowledge and a general uncertainty caused by the existence of plural future scenarios. Under these conditions, the socio-epistemic space is contested: established forms of knowledge compete and in addition new actors of knowledge emerge.

Looking at the phenomenon of a so-called real-world laboratory on a regional level, we raise the question, which actors and kinds of knowledge in innovation processes will prevail. We argue, that the generation of knowledge - for the exploration of a suitable path into the future post-fossil society - happens through a selection of plural forms of evidence.

The empirical subject of our research is a regional innovation initiative characterized by a heterogeneous actor constellation and striving for a pioneering role in the realization of the energy policy objectives. It tries to create a common knowledge space ("Wissensraum") through a participatory process. We shed light on the negotiation and validation processes: the generation, collation, validation and use of various forms of knowledge.

Our research reveals empirical insights that seem to be paradoxical: In particular, the uncertain future and the diverging expectations towards the experimental setting open up rooms for maneuver and areas of cooperation. Our findings indicate, that epistemic authority is achieved if knowledge is available for use and enables action. In our case of research, scientific knowledge satisfies a legitimizing and stabilizing function by combining itself with other kinds of knowledge and transforming it into practical relevance.

Panel T073
Epistemic Regimes - Reconfiguring epistemic quality and the reconstitution of epistemic authority