The Fusion Research symposium reflects on key discussions within and about nuclear fusion research

June 18, 2021 (6:30 AM – 11:00 AM CDT)
Online event

About this event

Fusion Research Through the Eyes of Social Scientists and Humanities Scholars

For over 70 years the promise of controlled nuclear fusion as a source of clean energy has occupied the minds of scientists, policy makers and the public. The 1920 idea that the Sun generates its energy by nuclear fusion of hydrogen nuclei into helium sparked the dream of humanity learning to replicate this process on Earth. The enthusiasm of an Argentinian president about a nuclear fusion experiment created a nuclear fusion hype in 1951. This experiment proved flawed, but interest in the topic was aroused and nuclear fusion research launched.

While the construction of the largest nuclear fusion research facility in a long range of experiments is well on its way with ITER, and while every day thousands of natural scientists and engineers are studying this potential new source of energy, as of yet the topic has been largely neglected by the social sciences and the humanities.

Therefore this symposium will explore perspectives from the social sciences and humanities on nuclear fusion science — ranging from the history of fusion technology to the organisation of big science projects, and from the techno-economical side of fusion energy to the role of science diplomacy in fusion research.

Understanding the historical, philosophical, sociological, economic and political aspects of nuclear fusion research is important for further development of fusion as a useful technology and crucial for its potential future implementation. Studies of these aspects can at the same time bring new theoretical and empirical insights to the corresponding scholarly fields within the social sciences and the humanities.

We welcome fusion researchers, social scientists and humanities scholars to join a conversation about what we can learn from each other’s fields and experiences, and reflect on key discussions within and about fusion research.

The symposium is centred around nine sessions exploring different perspectives on fusion research. We are glad to announce the contributions of:

13:30 – 13:40 Welcome and introduction

13:40 – 14:10 Prof. Dr. Niek Lopes Cardozo, TU/e, “Fusion energy: Doable? Necessary? Affordable? Wanted?”

14:10 – 14:40 Prof. Dr. Marco de Baar, DIFFER and TU/e, “Does an independent body of engineering knowledge exist? How can we identify it?”

14:50 – 15:05 Anouck Vrouwe MSc, DIFFER, “Sharing memories: Glimpse into daily life at FOM Institute for Plasma Physics”

15:05 – 15:20 Dr. Ad Maas, National Museum Boerhaave, “Archiving and preservation of fusion research”

15:20 – 15:50 Dr. Robert Bud, Science Museum London, “Public technology and a historical perspective on nuclear fusion”, with response from Michiel Bron MSc, Maastricht University

16:00 – 16:30 Prof. Dr. Gregor Schiemann, BU Wuppertal, “Reflecting Particle Physics: On the relationship between the natural sciences and the humanities in the research unit ‘The Epistemology of the Large Hadron Collider’”

16:30 – 17:00 Prof. Dr. Ir. Behnam Taebi, TU Delft, “Nuclear ethics: its past, present and futures!”

17:10 – 17:40 Dr. Mark Robinson, University of London, “Science diplomacy perspective on nuclear fusion collaboration”

17:40 – 18:10 Dr. Matteo Barbarino, IAEA, “A brief history of nuclear fusion research—IAEA’s perspective”

18:10 – 18:30 Discussion and wrap-up

The symposium is free to attend, but please register to receive the Zoom link.

If you have any questions please do not hesitate to contact Richelle ( or Michiel (

Please also contact us when we can do something to make participating in this symposium easier for you. We are committed to an open and accessible event and would love to hear from you about what we can do to make participating more easy in these digital times.

This event is part of a project that has received funding from the European Research Council (ERC) under the European Union’s Horizon 2020 research and innovation programme (Grant agreement No. 819533).

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