SUSST – Scienze Umane e Sociali per le Scienze e la Tecnologia

October 2018 - present
Funding organization: 

Politecnico di Torino

Person(s) in charge: 

Juan Carlos De Martin (Coordinator)

Executive summary: 

SUSST – Scienze Umane e Sociali per le Scienze e la Tecnologia is a project that aims at (re)opening a fruitful dialogue between the engineering sciences and the humanities in order to find innovative solutions to nowadays challenges in the field of engineering.


The advancement of polytechnic culture requires an increasing interaction with human and social sciences. This fruitful collaboration would be a fundamental tool for the articulation of innovative solutions to nowadays challenges, especially in the field of engineering.
Due to this awareness, Politecnico di Torino, under the guide of Prof. Juan Carlos De Martin, has founded, in October 2018, the SUSST group of work, which is rooted in a pioneering experience that the Istituto Superiore di Scienze Umane started 20 years ago, and which treasures the existing experiences of PoliTo’s Athenaeum (Dipartimento Interateneo di Scienze, Progetto e Politiche del Territorio - and Dipartimento di Ingegneria Gestionale e della Produzione -
This project also benefits from the expertise gained throughout the University in the Digital Age research project.


The core objective of SUSST group is identifying practical solutions that would permit PoliTo’s alignment with the best Northern-European Polytechnics, which in the last 20 years have been renewing their teaching offer, their research activities and their third mission. Following a well-established international path, they have been introducing the precious contributes of human and social scientists that operate in the field of science and technology. These actions are based on three fundamental assumptions:
(i) the need to foster the social impact of technical universities, adopting an interdisciplinary approach and a specific focus on nowadays controversies and challenges.
(ii) the will to shape high-level professionals and engineers, more aware of technology’s ethical, environmental, and social impact.
(iii) the aim to strengthen student’s critical thinking and, more precisely, their overall comprehension of techno-scientific context in which they act.
The inclusion of social and human sciences into technical universities would lead to a less sectorial teaching approach, contributing to the education of more flexible and high-skilled professionals. Being aware of the need of dialogue and confrontation with other Italian universities that are equally interested to renewing their teaching, SUSST group includes various professors and experts: Juan Carlos De Martin (coordinator); Giovanni Durbiano (Politecnico di Torino); Giovanni Vincenzo Fracastoro (Politecnico di Torino); Vittorio Marchis (Politecnico di Torino); Maurizio Ferraris (University of Turin); Peppino Ortoleva (University of Turin); Cristina Becchio (IIT and University of Turin); Paolo Volonté (Politecnico di Milano); Luca De Biase (journalist and writer).


Hereafter, the first results and the outline program of SUSST activities:
(i) November 2018-March 2019: mapping of national and international initiatives and on-site visits in Paris (École Polytechnique, École Centrale, École des mines, CNRS, ecc.) and in Lausanne (EPFL).
(ii) April-May 2019: meetings with the main cultural areas of PoliTo and collection of further contributions.
(iii) May 31, 2019: public meeting about national and international best practices at PoliTo’s Aula Magna.
(iv) July 2019: first draft of the final report.
(v) September 2019: delivery of the final version of the report to PoliTo’s Rector.
(vi) From January 2020: implementation of the decisions of PoliTo’s governing bodies.
(vii) June 2020: drafting of the first course proposal, ‘Grandi Sfide’, consisting of 6 great challenges to discuss with first-year bachelor students via frontal lessons and group works.
(viii) December 2020 – March 2021: institution of Grandi Sfide workgroup, composed by professors and researchers representing PoliTO departments and aimed at collecting spontaneous proposals from each department.
(ix) From April 2021: finalisation of ‘Grandi Sfide’ teaching proposal and next formal steps. Planned activities: additional open calls for researchers and collaborators, institution of a University-wide Center for Technology and Society.

Looking ahead:
In 2022, Theseus - technology, society and humanity center, a new research institution directed by prof. Stefano Sacchi has been founded. This initiative continues to build on the objectives of SUSST and it has been established with the aim of providing support for University initiatives aimed at organizing systematic interdisciplinary collaborations between polytechnical sciences, social sciences and humanities, while also promoting new and additional activities in this area. Theseus will work in close association with the Nexa Center.

Related Publications: