In their article "Blue Chips and White Collars: Whose Data Science Is It?" (Harvard Data Science Review), Seliem El-Sayed and Barbara Prainsack comment on Sabina Leonelli’s article "Data Science in Times of Pan(dem)ic" and explore how data science can be better used for the next phase of the pandemic response and the role of scientists in this process.

First, particularly during a period in which many key features of society differ from its ‘normal’ functioning, it is important to systematically collect and analyze insights into people' practices and experiences, and recognize their value for policymaking. Besides, given the increasing frequency with which results from hypothesis-free data mining are presented as actionable, it is important to be aware of the difference between correlation and causality. For example, a U.S. study cited in the commentary found that counties with higher home values were correlated with higher mortality rates, that is, deaths associated with COVID-19. The authors of the study can only speculate about the reasons for this correlation. It thus becomes apparent that policymakers should resist the pressure to act quickly until the results from hypothesis-free data mining have been supplemented with causal models. Finally, how technologies affect different groups in society should be carefully studied to avoid reinforcing existing inequities related to access to technology and wealth.

The authors conclude that scientists must recognize that they are not merely conducting neutral analyses. By choosing a framing of the central problem of a research project, scientists also determine and limit the form of a possible solution. For example, if researchers attribute a low willingness to get vaccinated to a lack of information, a 'solution' to that problem is likely to be concerned with closing this information gap. This 'solution' would overlook the fact that a low willingness to get vaccinated may reflect more than people's attitudes towards vaccination - it may, for example, indicate a lack of trust in policy makers or a general sense of insecurity. The pandemic, in which the pressure to base policy on scientific evidence is particularly high, places a greater obligation on scientists to reflect on the norms, goals, and values that research articulates and promotes.

On 28 January 2021, Barbara Prainsack held a workshop at the Davos Digital Forum: Health Edition on the topic of data ethics. 

In the digital era, data is often hailed as the new oil. This comparison, however, ignores that data – unlike oil – is not something that nature provides. Instead it is something that is curated by people, and often supported by infrastructures and technologies in and from the public domain.

No wonder, then, that the “data as oil” metaphor rubs some people the wrong way: it wrongly suggests that the companies use the data, and not the people from whom the data comes, have a moral – or even legal – right to own it.

Find more information here

Katharina Kieslich is member of the new HTAi - ISPOR Task Force

HTAi (Health Technology Assesment international) is collaborating with ISPOR (The leading professional society for Health Economics and Outcomes Research) by initiating a joint task force on deliberative processes for HTA.

The task force’s goal is to develop a consensus definition for a deliberative process from an HTA perspective and internationally recognized good practice recommendations on the use of deliberative processes in HTA.
We warmly congratulate Katharina Kieslich on her new role in the joint HTAi - ISPOR Deliberative Processes for HTA Good Practices Task Force.
Find further information here

New briefing: COVID-19 antibody testing and ‘immunity certification’

The Nuffield Council on Bioethics has published a policy briefing highlighting an urgent need for consideration of the ethical questions raised by COVID-19 antibody testing and immunity certification.

Antibody testing is currently being rolled out for research purposes but may offer a way to assess the risk of individuals being infected and transmitting the virus to others. It could also be used as the basis of a system of “immunity certification” or more complex risk profiling.

However, the prospect of “immunity certification” raises many ethical questions around respect for individual rights and interests and public health responsibilities and has wider societal implications. The negative impacts of certification are likely to fall disproportionately on those who are already socially marginalised and disadvantaged.

We believe there is an urgent need for public engagement and consideration of these complex ethical issues before further development of technologies and services based on antibody testing.
This briefing note summarises the key points of discussions at a multi-disciplinary expert meeting convened by the Nuffield Council on Bioethics on 24 April 2020.

With thanks to the meeting participants:
Chair: Professor Bobbie Farsides (Brighton & Sussex Medical School)
Professor Dr Steffen Augsberg (University of Giessen)
Victoria Butler-Cole QC (39 Essex Chambers)
Professor John Coggon (University of Bristol)
Professor Cam Donaldson (Glasgow Caledonian University)
Dr Jennie Evans (British Society for Immunology)
Dr Agamoni Ganguli-Mitra (University of Edinburgh)
Dr Carolina Haefliger (AstraZeneca)
Professor Jonathan Heeney (University of Cambridge)
Dr Stephen John (University of Cambridge)
Professor Jeffrey Kahn (Johns Hopkins University)
Professor Anne Kerr (University of Glasgow)
Dr Pete Mills (Nuffield Council on Bioethics)
Dr Alison Powell (LSE and Ada Lovelace Institute)
Professor Barbara Prainsack (University of Vienna and KCL)
Dr Julian Sheather (BMA and Médecins Sans Frontières)
Professor Effy Vayena (University of Zurich)
Professor Jantina de Vries (University of Cape Town)
Hugh Whittall (Nuffield Council on Bioethics)
Professor Karen Yeung (University of Birmingham)

Download the rapid policy briefing

EGE publishes statement: "European solidarity and protection of fundamental rights in the COVID-19 pandemic“

The EGE (European Group on Ethics in Science and New Technologies) published an opinion on European solidarity and protection of fundamental rights in the COVID-19 Pandemic.

Barbara Prainsack is a member of the permanent advisory body of the European Commission and is one of the authors of the statement.

Find the statement here

New open-access monograph by Lukas Schlögl: Disrupted Development and the Future of Inequality in the Age of Automation

This open access book examines the future of inequality, work and wages in the age of automation with a focus on developing countries. The authors argue that the rise of a global ‘robot reserve army’ has profound effects on labor markets and economic development, but, rather than causing mass unemployment, new technologies are more likely to lead to stagnant wages and premature deindustrialization. The book illuminates the debate on the impact of automation upon economic development, in particular issues of poverty, inequality and work. It highlights public policy responses and strategies–ranging from containment to coping mechanisms—to confront the effects of automation.

Find the Open Access Book here

New working paper by Lukas Schlögl: Leapfrogging into the unknown - The future of structural change in the developing world

This paper traces a set of major trends and future scenarios in global structural change. It argues that across multiple domains of change, developing economies are facing novel constellations of lateness and prematurity in technological and economic development.
The paper explores these novel constellations in employment and value added, global trade, and technological upgrading.

It argues that an expansion of service sector work in lockstep with rising economic development will likely continue to shape the medium-term future of structural transformation, albeit with trends of convergence and a hybridization of sectors.
New employment challenges may be emerging for participants in a global value chain due to the debated threat of ‘reshoring’ of offshored production.
The paper finally discusses automation in the non-tradable sector and the ramifications of technological leapfrogging or ‘technology creep’ for the future of structural change.


Find the Working Paper here

Special Issue by Barbara Prainsack in the Journal "Policy Studies"

Barbara Prainsack edited a Special Issue of “Policy Studies” on the political economy of digital data. Her own contribution discusses the use of healthcare data for the purpose of nudging. Find her contribution here. The Introduction to the Special Issue with an overview of all papers is available here.  

The AMR Social Science at the Marie Bashir Institut (MBI) will be launchen on 2nd March 2020 with a workshop which will bring together leading experts in the humanities and social sciences to critically examine the precursors of, and potential solutions to, AMR across contexts and cultures. Barbara Prainsack will give a pelnary lecture on "Solidarity in human-(anti)microbial relations".

Further information

Nikolas Rose’s visit at CeSCoS

(f.l.t.r.: Katharina T. Paul, Wanda Spahl, Lukas Schlögl, Nikolas Rose, Barbara Prainsack, Mirjam Pot)

From 9-13 December 2020 we had the pleasure to host the renowned sociologist and social theorist Professor Nikolas Rose (King’s College London). We organised a number of events around his visit, engaging diverse academic publics in exchange and discussion on topics ranging from the future of psychiatrics biopolitics to urban justice in times of digitisation.

The series of events started off with an inspiring Masterclass in which PhD students from our research group as well as other departments within and beyond the University of Vienna presented and discussed their projects with Nikolas Rose. Professor Rose did not only comment on each individual project, but also provided valuable advice on how to transform empirically grounded work into conceptually rich results.

On 11 December we held a symposium with participants from a broad variety of disciplinary backgrounds to critically discuss what “smart cities” could and should mean in the 21st century. Our aim was to explore this question by going beyond the focus on digital technologies and datafication. Nikolas Rose opened the symposium with a talk on “Mental Health and Urban Justice in the Age of the Smart City”, which was followed by presentations by other participants and lively discussion of conceptualisations of “the smart city” as a socio-technological imaginary, the renegotiation of public space, and the need to foreground social and economic justice in discussing the present and future of cities. 

In the evening of the same day, Professor Rose gave a public lecture on “Our Psychiatric Future: Is Another Psychiatric Biopolitics Possible?”. He stressed the need to move away from the dominant but narrow neuroscientific approach to mental illness towards the incorporation of patients’ social life worlds into psychiatry, as well as a stronger focus on social determinants.

CeSCoS would like to thank Professor Nikolas Rose for visiting us and presenting his recent and ongoing work in such an intellectually stimulating ways. We also thank all participants for their engagement and the interesting discussions in all the events.

Listen here to the public lecture on “Our Psychiatric Future: Is Another Psychiatric Biopolitics Possible?":

Barbara Prainsack at TRT Worlds "Roundtable" on "Precision Medicine: Healthcare revolution?"

Roundtable is a discussion programme with an edge. Broadcast out of London and presented by David Foster, it's about bringing people to the table, listening to every opinion, and analysing every point of view. From fierce debate to reflective thinking, Roundtable discussions offer a different perspective on the issues that matter to you.

On Wednesday 20th November 2019, the topic of the roundtable was "Precision Medicine: Healthcare revolution?". Besides Barbara Prainsack, Joyce Harper (University College London), Catherine Joynson (Nuffield Council on Bioethics) and Patrick Short (Sano Genetics) took part in the discussion.

New Paper by Mirjam Pot, Wanda Spahl & Barbara Prainsack

The new paper "The Gender of Biomedical Data: Challenges for Personalised and Precision Medicine" is published in Somatechnics. Somatechnics presents a thorougly multi-disciplinary scholarship on "the body". The overarching theme of volume 9 is "Data Matters: (Un)doing Data and Gender in the Life Sciences & Pharmacological and Carceral Bodies".

Full Text

The Workshop Public Involvement and Governance in Population-Level Biomedical Research takes place in Oxford on the 9th and 20th January 2020.
Biomedical research increasingly focuses on the collection, collation, and analysis of big data for population-level research. However, such research poses challenges to traditional systems of research governance, pushing against existing conceptions of research participants and informed consent, and in doing so, raising concerns related to privacy, data protection, and trust. In response, models of public involvement in governance are being proposed to fill gaps in oversight and restore public trust.

Keynote Speakers

Jonathan Montgomery, University College London
Barbara Koenig, University of California, San Fransisco

Confirmed Panellists

Michael Burgess, The University of British Columbia
Victoria Chico, University of Sheffield
Aaron Goldenberg, Case Western Reserve University
Michelle McGowan, Cincinnati Children’s Hospital
Barbara Prainsack, University of Vienna
Mahsa Shabani, University of Leuven

More information

Barbara Prainsack will hold a talk within the lecture series "Taming the Machines"

On 4. December 2019 Barbara Prainsack will give a talk on "The Value of Data in Healthcare: Beyond Nudging". The talk takes place within the lecture series "Taming the Machines" organised by the Department of Informatics (University of Hamburg). This public lecture series invites internationally renowned scholars to discuss major normative questions related to the design, use and regulation of information technology for a good society.

More information about the lecture series and dates

New Journal Article by Wanda Spahl & August Österle

The new article "Stratified membership: health care access for urban refugees in Turkey", published in the Comparative Migration Studies Journal, examines developements in the light of stratified membership theories. More specifically, it asks how far the healthcare system in Turkey can be categorised as a system of stratified membership for different groups of urban refugees, focusing on refugees from Syria, Iraq and Afghanistan.




Turkey hosts more refugees than any other country in the world. Incoming numbers have increased steadily since the outbreak of the Syrian war in 2011. This raises enormous challenges for the host country, not least with regard to the provision of healthcare. This article examines the developments in the light of stratified membership theories. More specifically, it asks how far the healthcare system in Turkey can be categorised as a system of stratified membership for different groups of urban refugees, focusing on refugees from Syria, Iraq and Afghanistan. Following a theoretical debate about stratification in the provision of social rights, 16 semi-structured interviews with experts and active participants were carried out in Ankara to understand the situation of urban refugees in need of healthcare. The results confirm assumptions of stratified membership theories which understand citizenship in a broad sense as comprising the interconnected dynamics between social rights, legal status and identity requirements. Next to ethnic categories of origin defining the status in Turkey, factors such as language skills or the individual economic situation also play crucial roles for stratified membership both as an empirical fact and as a constructed practice.

Full Article

 The Value(s) of Precision Medicine: Societal, Political, and Ethical Aspects

The Precision Medicine: Ethics, Politics, and Culture Project welcomes Professor Barbara Prainsack to give a talk on “The Value(s) of Precision Medicine: Societal, Political, and Ethical Aspects”, on Wednesday, May 6th 2020, 5pm-7pm at the University of Columbia, USA.

Find further information here.

 Call for participation: Master Class with Dr Mark Flear

In November, Dr Mark Flear is going to visit the Centre for the Study of Contemporary Solidarity. On November 20, Mark will give an invited lecture in the lecture series of the Department of Political Science.  In addition, we also organize a Master Class for doctoral students and early career researchers. The idea of the class is to enable early career researchers to discuss their work and ideas with Mark and to provide a space that allows them to enter into conversation with one another. Doctoral students and early career researchers from all departments and disciplines are welcome (including law, political science, science and technology studies, and others!)

When: November 21, 2019, 10.00-13.00
Where: University of Vienna, Department of Political Science, Conference Room (Neues Institutsgebäude, Universitätsstraße 7, 2nd floor, Trakt A)

If you are interested in presenting and discussing your work, please send a short message to Ingrid Metzler ( by October 5, 2019. It would be helpful if you could describe the project, dissertation or paper that you wish to discuss in a couple of sentences. Moreover, we will ask you to send an extended abstract of approximately 1000-1500 words by November 17. These abstracts will be shared among all participants of the Master Class.

Dr Mark Flear is Reader/Associate Professor in Law at Queen’s University Belfast. Dr Flear’s work explores the interactions between European law, science and technology, with a focus on public health and new health technologies. Dr Flear has a special interest in citizen participation in science-based issues and using it to tease out the normative implications of the scientific and technical. Dr Flear contributes widely to all these areas, including through his monograph Governing Public Health (Hart Publishing 2015 pb; 2018 hb). This book provided the first examination of the EU as a biopolitical actor and reframed public health as a matter for citizen participation. Dr Flear is also the lead editor of and a key contributor to the pioneering European Law and New Health Technologies (OUP 2013). Through the latter Dr Flear identified the field and mapped out its broad contours. Dr Flear publishes in other leading collections on European law, and in journals such as the Medical Law Review and the Human Rights Law Review. Dr Flear is currently finalising the manuscript for a special issue of the Journal of Law and the Biosciences, which he is co-editing with Professor Richard Ashcroft. Dr Flear is also working with scholars from across Europe, Asia and Australia on a white paper on applying adaptive governance to health technologies.
Dr Flear has been a visiting scholar at the Faculty of Law, University of Cambridge and the Faculty of Law and Criminology, Vrije Universiteit Brussels. He has provided his expert view to the European Group on Ethics in Science and New Technologies, and has given invited lectures on a number of topics within his research areas, including at the Mason Institute, University of Edinburgh. Mark also has a regulatory role as an independent Member of the Northern Ireland DNA Database Governance Board.

Further information

The Masterclass is organized by the Centre for the Study of Contemporary Solidarity (CeSCos), the Department of Political Science, the Department of Science and Technology Studies, and the Research Focus Knowledge Societies in Turbulent Times.

"The Conversation" featured a new article by Barbara Prainsack (amongst others)

The feature titled "How big data can affect your bank account - and life" is based on the article "Big Data Governance Needs More Collective Respnsibility: The Role of Harm Mitigation in the Governance of Data Use in Medicine and Beyond", written by Barbara Prainsack, Alena Buyx and Aisling McMahon.

The Conversation is a non-profit media outled that uses content courced from academics and researchers.

Barbara Prainsack has been interviewed by CNN

Barbara Prainsack has been interviewed by CNN on the ban of facial recognition in San Fransisco.

Find the video here

A new podcast by the European Data Protection Supervisor (EDPS) featuring Ursula Huws (University of Hertfordshire), Aiha Nguyen (Data & Society), and our very own Barbara Prainsack, discusses digitisation and the future of work.
Listen here

Lukas Schlögl in Podcast on the Future(s) of Work

In this podcast @jimmygreer talks to entrepreneurs, policy makers and academics about what has become known as the future of work. We discuss the challenges and opportunities of online platform working; why it is so important and to make this new way of working fair; how some freelancers are making the most of digital; the impact of automation (or should that be ‘automatability’?) on emerging and developing country jobs; and what to do about the so-called ‘rise of the robots’. This podcast is the first in a series exploring the themes from our research into business models of the future. Click here to read a short summary of our latest report on Business Models of the Future

Guests: Willem Pieter de Groen (Centre for European Policy Studies), Romain Trébuil (Yoss), Ellen Thijs (B-Hive), Natalya Sverensky (NOBL), Brando Benifei (MEP), Luke Schlögl (University of Vienna)


Among others (see below) Katharina Kieslich published a new article in the Journal of the Royal Society of Medicine on "National Institute for Health and Care Excellence, social values and healthcare priority setting".

Littlejohns, P., Chalkidou, K., Culyer, AJ., Weale, A., Rid, A., Kieslich, K., Coultas, C., Max, C., Manthorpe, J., Rumbold, B., Charlton, V., Roberts, H., Faden, R., Wilson, J., Krubiner, C., Mitchell, P., Wester, G., Whitty, JA. and Knight, S. (2019) 'National Institute for Health and Care Excellence, social values and healthcare priority setting', Journal of the Royal Society of Medicine. doi: 10.1177/0141076819842846.

New Publication by Katharina Kieslich

Katharina Kieslich pusblied a new article with the title 'Paradigms in operation: explaining pharmaceutical benefit assessment outcomes in England and Germany' in the Journal of Health Economics


Health technology assessments (HTAs) are used as a policy tool to appraise the clinical value, or cost effectiveness, of new medicines to inform reimbursement decisions in health care. As HTA organisations have been established in different countries, it has become clear that the outcomes of medicine appraisals can vary from country to country, even though the same scientific evidence in the form of randomised controlled trials is available. The extant literature explains such variations with reference to institutional variables and administrative rules. However, little research has been conducted to advance the theoretical understanding of how variations in HTA outcomes might be explained. This paper compares cases of HTA in England and Germany using insights from Kuhn (1962, The Structure of Scientific Revolutions, 2nd edn. Chicago: The University of Chicago Press) and Hall (1993, Policy paradigms, social learning, and the state: the case of economic policymaking in Britain. Comparative Politics 25, 275–296) to demonstrate how policy paradigms can explain the outcomes of HTA processes. The paper finds that HTA outcomes are influenced by a combination of logical issues that require reasoning within a paradigm, and institutional and political issues that speak to the interaction between ideational and interest-based variables. It sets out an approach that advances the theoretical explanation of divergent HTA outcomes, and offers an analytical basis on which to assess current and future policy changes in HTA.

Kieslich, K. (2019) 'Paradigms in operation: explaining pharmaceutical benefit assessment outcomes in England and Germany'. Journal of Health Economics, Policy and Law.

New book: Debating Unemployment Policy - Political Communication and the Labour Market in Western Europe

The new book is published by Cambridge University Press.
Edited by Laurent Bernhard, University of Zurich, Flavia Fossati, University of Vienna, Regula Hänggli, Université de Fribourg, Switzerland and Hanspeter Kriesi, European University Institute, Florence.


In 2008 the world experienced the Great Recession, a financial and economic crisis of enormous proportions and the greatest economic downturn since the 1930s. In its wake, unemployment became a key preoccupation of West European publics and politicians. This comparative study considers the policy debates surrounding unemployment in the United Kingdom, Germany, France, Italy, Denmark and Switzerland since 2008. With an over-arching focus on drawing out cross-national commonalities and differences, the authors ask whether patterns of political communication vary across countries. Their analysis draws on interviews with labour market policy-makers in the six selected countries, and paints a revealing picture. Appealing to researchers in comparative politics, political communication and welfare state research, this book will also interest practitioners involved in labour market policy.

Get your copy here.