Law Science Technology and Society

  • Pleinlaan 2

    1050 Brussels


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Organization profile

Organisation profile

The interdisciplinary Research Group on Law Science Technology & Society (LSTS, created in 2003) at the Vrije Universiteit Brussel (VUB) is devoted to analytical, theoretical and prospective research into the relationships between law, science, technology and society. LSTS's core expertise is legal, but we also have a strong track record in legal theory, philosophy of sciences and bio-ethics, and we engage in criminological (surveillance & security) and STS-research too. In the broadest wordings: LSTS's main challenge is to (re)think the constitutive principles of democracy and the rule of law (including principles as precaution, participation, accountability and responsibility) in relation to contemporary scientific and technological developments that seem to confront citizens with irreversible decision-making processes with a major impact on their lives. LSTS nurtures a bottom-up interdisciplinary approach, whereby disciplinary scientific (legal, criminological, sociological, technological, etc.) practices and research meet, seek mutual interest and understanding, and build up articulations that remain respectful of the different constraints of the disciplines involved, their own way of constructing questions and issues and their mutual impacts. Schematically speaking, in LSTS there are two main research tracks althoug they are strongly interrelated and interdependent. Most of the members of our team are committed to both tracks, even if that can be to a considerably different extent. Very often, both tracks conflate to one integrated research dynamics. The first track" - is conceptual and mainly inspired by and building further upon the work LSTS did in 2002-2007 within the multidisciplinary Interuniversity Attraction Pole, coordinated by Gutwirth ("The loyalties of knowledge", for traces of this project see This perspective focuses upon generic questions concerning the relationship between law, science, technology & society. Starting with the IAP-project, we did not stop to concretely work with researchers from very different disciplinary perspectives (including the computer sciences) aiming at cross-fertilisation and mutual participation in the process of building up the research questions and producing answers. We have been pursuing this path steadily, in the FP6 and FP7 projects we are participating in, which are always international and interdisciplinary (including 'hard' sciences) networks. Our focus is also fundamental because on the one hand we endeavour to rethink and reconceptualise the singularity of disciplinary scientific practices in contrast to other practices, such as those of lawyers, technologists and policy-makers (cf. Isabelle Stengers' 'écologie des pratiques'; Bruno Latour's 'régimes d'énonciation' or 'modes d'existence', both thinkers were involved in the IAP project), and on the other, we explore the way such different practices articulate and interact. This conceptual research track benefits greatly of the input from very practical and disciplinary scientific work done in the second track, both as regards the research done on questions of positive law and the exploration of thematic issues such as privacy by design, PNR-data exchanges, the commodification of bodily materials, the use of location data, GMOs, etc. The second track lies more within positive legal science and contains both analytical (state of the art) research and more prospective research (aiming at inspiring new legal policies), starting from legal issues raised by scientific and technological innovation. Such issues include biometrics, electronic publishing, autonomic computing, ambient intelligence, social networks, the 'virtual home', 'omnisensing', medical applications of ICT, ICT for the aging, cybercrime, patents and human dignity, and so on. In the context of this track, next to the more technical hermeneutical legal work (e.g. in the field of data protection and privacy, human rights, criminal law, copyrights or patents), we provide for more fundamental prospects, but we also learn from the interdisciplinary practice, which practically feeds the first line of research. LSTS counts around 35 researchers, including ZAP, seniors, postdocs, predocs and free lance researchers ("vrijwillige medewerkers"), not all of them mainly affiliated to LSTS. At present the core group counts around 20 researchers, most of them paid on external funding (FP7, FWO, IWT-SBO, tenders, ...). LSTS senior members also teach in different disciplines and different universities both at graduate and post-graduate level (Vrije Universiteit Brussel, Erasmus Universiteit Rotterdam, Leiden University, Facultés Universitaires Saint-Louis, Université Catholique de Louvain-la-Neuve, Katholieke Universiteit Brussel, etc.) LSTS is the main organiser of the yearly Computers, Privacy and Data Protection or CPDP conferences (


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