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Living with Radiation. The Role of the International Atomic Energy Agency in the History of Radiation Protection (HRP-IAEA)


 This project addresses the central question of how the International Atomic Energy Agency, a diplomatic and political international organization, came to dominate scientific institutions with a long tradition in radiation protection. Despite the importance of international organizations for the development of postwar science there is no work on the history of radiation protection in relation to the development of the IAEA. The project addresses this lacuna in a groundbreaking way: it analyses what is usually treated as a strictly techno-scientific issue—how best to protect us from ionized radiation—using methods from history, philosophy, and sociology of science, and in the context of international history. The main hypothesis is that scientific knowledge about radiation protection has been shaped by diplomatic, social, economic, and political concerns. This approach casts new light on important aspects of postwar history of science, combining attention to state actors, science diplomacy, and the roles played by international organizations. Given the enormous interest in radiation protection the time is ripe for providing a comprehensive social, historical, and political study of the role of the IAEA in the field.

The main objectives of the project are:

·     to retrace the international history of radiation protection after World War II, focusing especially on the "Technical Assistance Programs" of the IAEA;

·     to investigate the role of the IAEA in sponsoring knowledge production in the field of radiation protection in competition with other regulatory agencies; and

·     to analyze the standardization of instruments, objects, procedures, and technical vocabulary as the main strategy used by the IAEA for guiding radiation protection worldwide.

The project advocates a "diplomatic turn": diplomacy becomes analytical category in history of science. Highly interdisciplinary, it brings together expertise from several disciplines, promising a significant advancement across them.



Inventing a shared Science Diplomacy for Europe

Learn more about the project InsSciDE


The project InsSciDE - Inventing a Shared Science Diplomacy for Europe -, of which NTUA is a partner, has just been approved under the H2020 program, with the maximum score of 15 points and a budget for three years of 2.5 million euros.

NTUA is one of the partners and will carry out the coordination of Work Package 6 on Security. Professor Maria Rentetzi is the leader of the WP. Members of the group include Assistant Professor Anna Aberg (Chalmers University of Technology), Dr. Matthew Adamson (University of Veterinary Medicine Budapest), and Professor Alexandros-Andreas Kyrtsis (National and Kapodistrian University of Athens).
The European Commission has called for the development of effective science diplomacy for Europe. InsSciDE – Inventing a Shared Science Diplomacy for Europe – responds to this call with a hypothesis: the Member States have a great capital of experience on which they can draw. Domestic and transnational initiatives have long used science in global diplomatic engagements, in a diversity of ways and contexts. But this practice is fragmented, unrecognized, or lacking an overall model that could bring it into view and let it be shared –leveraged and consolidated for Europe. Our project reveals, formalizes and communicates this intangible capital, develops its conceptual bases and elaborates tools to help European science diplomacy emerge and blossom. From first questions to final tools and training, we lead this process from inside science diplomacy – hand-in-hand with its practitioners, potential practitioners and other stakeholders. Those who deploy, direct and benefit from science diplomacy are co-inventors, end-users and ambassadors for the project, accompanied by a consortium associating academic excellence and high competence in stakeholder engagement. An ambitious communication program presents InsSciDE to a broad international audience for feedback, widely disseminates findings and intellectual products, and ensures a legacy.

Project website

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Technische Universitaet Berlin
Chair of History of the 20th century Science
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