Exploring contributions of civil society to safety — ECCSSafe

The problem addressed

From the 1990’s to now, the European context has been marked by the emergence and the reinforcement of reflections and research on the contribution of civil society to the quality of decisions concerning hazardous activities in risk governance studies (cf. TRUSTNET European research projects series, the works of O. Renn, the works of the International Risk Governance Council). It has also been marked by the development of various legal, institutional and regulatory arrangements aiming to organize participation of civil society and local stakeholders in decision-making concerning hazardous activities.

The interactions between civil society and local actors on the one hand and institutional actors engaged in safety of industrial activities on the other hand are most often addressed either through the general issue of stakeholder involvement, perception studies, risk governance studies or through the more general issue of the exercise of democracy regarding technical issues. Social and human aspects of industrial safety are addressed through the analysis of human and organisation factors of safety that are focused either on the analysis of single organisations (e.g. operators) and their safety culture or address a safety system where safety is the result of the actions and interactions of operators, regulators and experts.

We can currently observe that some regulators and technical support organisations, in particular in the nuclear field (e.g. IRSN in France, SITEX network in Europe), are developing new approaches where civil society is incorporated in the safety system as an additional layer contributing to safety, moving from a 3-pillar safety approach (operators, regulators, experts) to a 4-pillar conception including civil society. However, this renewed role of civil society as regards safety has not yet been investigated from a research point of view.

Keywords: governance civil society

Research questions

The project is a feasibility study for a larger scale research on the contribution of civil society and local actors to the safety of industrial activities, to the safety culture and to the resilience of organisations as regards safety.

The objective of the research is to explore this contribution by:

  • Identifying concrete cases and concrete contributions of the engagement of civil society to the safety of industrial activities in Europe;
  • Building a theoretical framework for the analysis of the contribution of civil society to safety;
  • Identifying and specifying the nature and added value of the civil society contribution to industrial safety (notably as regards quality of the decision-making processes and governance frameworks, quality of expertise, influence on values taken into account and safety culture);
  • Sketching out favourable conditions and means for the development of a contribution of civil society to the safety of industrial activities in a dynamic perspective (co-evolution of civil society and regulatory and institutional frameworks);
  • Identifying key issues to address in further research and proposing guidelines for a larger scale research.

Keywords: expertise governance

Scientific disciplines: anthropology, political science

Expected outputs

For civil society and local actors, the identification of the nature, conditions and means of their contribution to safety, backed by concrete cases, is a factor that will support civil society claims for access to information and decision-making processes for safety-related issues and develop new relationships with other stakeholders.

For experts and technical support organisations (TSOs), these outcomes will help identifying new ways of interacting with civil society and local actors and new ways of producing expertise. For operators and regulators, these outcomes will open new opportunities to engage with civil society as partners in the production of safety. For the research community, ECCSSafe will open new fields of research by investigating safety issues in a broader safety system of actors encompassing civil society, alongside operators, regulators and experts. The project will provide both a theoretical framework for this and guidelines proposing new directions of research and concrete ways to address them.

Keywords: stakeholders


The project is structured around the following tasks:

  1. Construction of a common methodological framework (month 1 to 3). The framework will build on available research results in the fields of risk governance studies, reflections on constructive democracy and governance of technological activities and reflections on modes of construction of expertise integrating a contribution from civil society.
  2. Case studies (month 5 to 8). Develop a concrete empirical basis enabling to test and validate the hypothesis of a
    contribution of civil society engagement and provide examples and empirical evidence of cases where such
    contribution is observed. On the basis of the criteria developed in the common theoretical and methodological framework, the partners of the project will identify 3 possible case studies in France, Slovenia, Hungary or other European countries. 2 cases will belong to the nuclear sectors; the third case to another industrial sectors (e.g. management of SEVESO sites, non-nuclear energy facilities...).
  3. Transversal analysis of the case studies according to the common framework (month 9 to 11). This transversal analysis will enable to identify key cross-cutting issues emerging from the 3 case studies.
  4. Develop guidelines for larger-scale research (month 10 to 12). The guidelines will be a self-standing document including a short description of the 3 case studies developed under task 2, a summary of the transversal analysis of the case studies, identification of key issues that can be subject of further research (validated with the participants of the integration workshop).
  5. Dissemination (month 3 to 12)

Associated deliverables

Lessons from the ECCSSafe European research project
Summary of project outcomes Creative Commons BY-SA published on 2016-07-21
The ECCSSafe research project (2014-2016) has showed that civil society can (and actually did) contribute to safety of industrial activities, including nuclear activities, if favourable conditions are met. It also proposes a programme for further research in this field.

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Participating researchers

Gilles Hériard Dubreuil (Mutadis, France)

Stéphane Baudé (Mutadis, France) — project coordinator

Nadja Železnik (Country office in Slovenia, Regional Environmental Center for Central and Eastern Europe (REC), Slovenia)

Drago Kos (Research Centre for Environmental and Urban Studies, Faculty of Social Sciences, University of Ljubljana, Slovenia)

Zsuzsanna Koritár (Energiaklub, Hungary)

András Perger (Energiaklub, Hungary)

Funding organizations

FonCSI (France)

Information last updated on 2014-09-04.

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