Dr S T Lee Public Policy Lecture: Professor Helga Nowotny, European Research Council

28 November 2013, 5:30pm



This lecture will be live-streamed here:


If you would like to ask questions remotely during the lecture, you can do so through Twitter tagging you tweets with #Nowotny

You can read the news article about the event here.

Speaker: Helga Nowotny, President and founding member of the European Research Council
Chair: Professor Sir Leszek Borysiewicz, Vice-Chancellor, University of Cambridge
Venue: Judge Business School, Cambridge
Date: Thursday 28 November 2013 (5:30pm - 6:45pm + drinks)

Helga Nowotny, President and founding member of the European Research Council, will deliver this year's S T Lee Lecture. Helga Nowotny is Professor emerita of Social Studies of Science, ETH Zurich. In 2007 she was elected ERC Vice President and in March 2010 succeeded Fotis Kafatos as President of the ERC. She holds a PhD in Sociology from Columbia University, and a doctorate in jurisprudence from the University of Vienna.


Speaking about prediction and prophecy, Sir Karl Popper saw the main task of the social sciences in ‘tracing the unintended repercussions of intentional human actions’. The current volatile oscillations between confidence and fear of the future, fuelled by the dynamics of scientific and technological advances, provide fertile ground to do so.

Evolutionary biologists, ethnologists, social psychologists and others point to the evolutionary roots of many cognitive biases that impact on how we cope with uncertainty. They have relatively little to say however about the complexity of the social contexts in which decisions under uncertainty are made. Promises may seem the easy way out, deferring delivery to the future.

Policy has to tread carefully between what is already known and consequences that are difficult, if not impossible to predict. The situation is most difficult for the public. How can a plural, heterogeneous composite of individual actors and their often contradictory interactions cope with uncertainty?

S T Lee Lectures

The S T Lee Public Policy lectures were established in 2003 thanks to a benefaction from Seng Tee Lee, Singaporean business executive, philanthropist and Honarary Fellow of Wolfson College, Cambridge. Each lecture considers aspects of scientific, medical or technological research and developments that are likely to have significant implications for public policy over the next decade.

Professor Helga Nowotny

European Research Council (ERC)

  • In news articles

    Dr S T Lee Public Policy Lecture 2013: The value of uncertainty in science

    Professor Helga Nowotny, President of the European Research Council, delivers the Dr S T Lee Public Policy Lecture 2013.