Mario Pansera arrives at ECOBAS to develop a new and alternative research agenda

Dr Mario Pansera joins the Strategic Group this week to carry out his research at the University of Vigo during the next five years. Dr Pansera was recently awarded with a Starting Grant from the European Research Council (ERC).  

There is a good chance that his stay will be extended

Since 2020 Dr Pansera has been working as a lecturer with a Serra Hunter contract at the Autonomous University of Barcelona, and he will not completely leave his role. “We are in the process of signing an agreement between the two universities so that I can continue to collaborate with the UAB as an associated researcher. My research at the UAB has been a continuation of the work done in Bristol. During the past year I managed to publish my work on responsible innovation in the journal Research Policy, and my research on post-growth in the journal Organization. The truth is that the UAB has many resources and many very interesting people, but I will almost certainly stay in Galicia after the ERC project. Among other things because the agreement with the UVigo includes a Tenure Position”, explains the doctor.  

New and fresh ideas

Mario Pansera believes that the UVigo is still quite traditional in teaching subjects such as economics and business organization. However, in recent months he has found many researchers, especially young people, wanting to explore new paths, new ideas. “I already collaborate actively with the REDE group and the GEN group, although it should be said that perhaps the group closest to the type of research I carry out is the Green Economy group (GIIEAH) with whom I would like to collaborate in the future. In addition, I also have very good contacts with the CRETUS Strategic Group, at the University of Santiago de Compostela, and I collaborate with the sustainability campus of the University of A Coruña where the excellent Adina Dumitru is doing a spectacular job”, says the researcher.  

In the coming months PROSPERA will hire a Project manager, four doctoral students and two postdocs

The project officially started on 1 February and will explore  different lines of research. “There will probably be a couple of PhD students who will analyze the micro aspects of post-growth organizations: their characteristics, the obstacles they encounter and the policies that can help them to survive. Another line of research will deal with networks and supply chains of alternative organizations. Finally, the role of scientific institutions (universities, research centres, etc.) in the reproduction of the discourse and the ideology of growth will be studied. The ambition is to develop an alternative discourse that is capable of detoxifying, so to speak, the scientific institutions from this obsession with infinite growth”, explains Dr Pansera.

Pansera has just obtained a 3.6M EUR H2020 project

“It’s a project focused on circular economy that I’m coordinating from the UVigo. The project is entitled “A just transition to Circular Economy (JUST2CE)” and involves 13 beneficiaries, including European and African universities. The study aims to develop an alternative conceptual framework to the current formulation of the Circular Economy as proposed by the EU. Today, the Circular Economy seems more like a sophisticated Green Washing mechanism. Change the language, the ways of calling things, without changing the destructive and unsustainable model imposed by capitalist market economy. What we want to demonstrate in the project is that for an economy to be sustainable it has to be first and foremost just. The irony is that such a project that is so critical of the EU approach it is going to be funded by the same institution. The project includes fieldwork in many countries. A challenge in the current situation!”, says Dr Pansera.

“Technology has the power to change social relations”

Most of Dr Pansera’s work deals with the democratization of innovation. In addition, he works as editor of the Journal of Responsible Innovation led by Erik Fisher of the Arizona State University, an institution with which he has been collaborating since 2015. “I am a telecommunication engineer and I have always been interested in the relationship between technology and society. However, I think the experience that pushed  me to dedicate myself to this field was the time I worked in Bolivia. I spent almost two years trying to convince indigenous Quechuas and Aymaras to install photovoltaic panels in their communities. The project was not a total failure, but it also did not revolutionize the lives of these people. In many cases, moreover, technology was abandoned because people had other priorities. This experience made me think a lot about the role of technology as a political tool. We, especially scientists and engineers, think that technology is neutral, apolitical, objective. But it’s not. Technology has the power to change social relations in a positive way, but it also has very negative consequences. It can even have the power to replace sustainable ways of living with new forms of destructive and unjust social arrangements. One example is the Google first artificial intelligence algorithms of car facial recognition for the driver-less car, which were not able to recognize black people. There were several accidents in the first tests. This happened because the developers were all white and it didn’t occur to them to train the algorithms with photos of non-white people! Technologies contain in their designs the values and worldviews of their creators. This is not taught in engineering schools and it is a problem. We are creating generations of technicians and engineers who are not prepared to face the ethical dilemmas presented by many modern technologies”.

“My goal is to create a group of open and creative people. At least I hope to have a minimum impact on the Galician context and start talking about these issues. What I would really like is that at the end of the project, in five years, there should be a compulsory subject in all courses in technology, science and engineering on ethics in science and technology and responsible innovation. There is no Spanish university that has done such a thing. I know it is a difficult task, but one has to try!”, concludes Dr Pansera.