Thematic sessions

Teaching and Social Learning

Session organizer

How Computer Science contributes to Resilience, Learning and Innovation

Session organizer

The aim of this session is to present some of the recent research results that have been achieved by the Department of Computer Science at the Open Universiteit. This research focuses in particular on three subprograms in the MST research program: Trustworty Systems (Resilience), Sustainability (Resilience), and Teaching and Social Learning (Learning).

A key research area in Trustworthy Systems is security and privacy. Security of computer systems and information systems is essential to protect access to sensitive information and resources. In addition, privacy also protects access to personal information. The societal impact of security and privacy has increased significantly in the last decade. Along with the continuing digitalization of our society, there is increasing relevance to adequately protect computer and information systems and in particular the data that they store and process.

A key research area in Sustainability is the energy consumption of IT systems. IT systems can help to improve sustainability, for instance by smart grids, but at the same time IT systems have a substantial environmental footprint. The latter is of particular concern given the current climate change debate and efforts to reduce greenhouse gas emissions and stop global warming.

A key research area in Teaching and Social Learning is on how to teach subjects in Computer Science, such as mathematics and programming, and how the student’s learning can be supported efficiently by means of IT. This requires not only skills and talent of students, but also an open attitude. In addition, computer tools to support teaching and learning offer a powerful way to enhance the learning process of students.

Resilience, innovation and entrepreneurship

Session organizers

Employee resilience refers to bouncing back from challenges at work to come back better than before (Smith et al., 2008). Employee resilience can be seen as a trait variable that has state-like characteristics, as it is a personal disposition that can be developed over time, albeit slowly (see Xanthopoulou et al., 2009; Luthans, 2002). In other words, it is a malleable personal resource (Xanthopoulou et al., 2009). Studies show that resilient employees are better in achieving various organizational goals such as job performance and organizational commitment (Youssef & Luthans, 2007; Meneghel, Martínez, & Salanova, 2016; Wang, Li, & Li, 2017). It is in the interest of organizations to identify organizational factors that can help employees build resilience (Kuntz, Connell, & Näswall, 2017a; Kuntz, Malinen, & Näswall, 2017b). Therefore, the focus of this thematic session is on getting a grasp on factors that foster resilience in employees and teams.

Although resilience has been shown to be antecedent to organizational outcome variables including job performance, job satisfaction and organizational commitment (Youssef and Luthans, 2007; Meneghel et al., 2016), creativity (Huang and Luthans, 2015), and work engagement (Mache et al., 2014), until now only a few studies have investigated how resilience is related to entrepreneurship and innovative capacity. Hence, in the special session we will invite papers that address this topic.

PICO: Spatio-temporal dimensions of resilience in socio-ecological systems

Session organizers


A central issue in environmental sciences is the interaction between societies and ecosystems. Societies both affect and ultimately depend on ecosystem services. Assessing and improving the resilience of such socio-ecological systems requires knowledge on strength of the feedbacks from anthropogenic pressures to the ultimate impacts of ecological changes on societies. As these pressures and impacts often occur at different points in time and space, a spatio-temporal perspective is essential. This session explores resilience in socio-ecological systems from such a broad perspective. Studies to be presented in the session could differ in drivers involved (climate crisis, urbanization, energy transition), could study patterns on scales from household till global, and could differ in methodology to study the socio-ecological historic and future changes (field survey, data modelling, co-creation processes, design thinking).

This session is organized as a mixture of a poster session and an oral session, called PICO presentation (Presenting Interactive Content). The session consists of two parts: it starts with several 2-minute orals in succession. This is followed by side by side presentations on digital screens, like poster sessions. Each author presents a 2-minute oral in the first part of the session; after this part of the session this is followed by an interactive presentation on digital screens.

Possible topics include:

  • Automated and on-demand mobility systems: environmental impact trends
  • Chronosequence studies on terrestrial carbon sequestration
  • Citizens-participation surveys on integrating ecosystems services and climate adaptation
  • Energy Hub Models
  • Impact of changing food systems on agricultural or natural ecosystems
  • Modelling the fate of newly emerging ecological stressors in time or space
  • Monitoring studies to biodiversity
  • Water-energy-food nexus studies

In particular, we invite thesis-students (PhD, master and bachelor) and early scientists, to present their first research findings.

Learning, Resilience, and Employability in Organisational Sustainability

Session organizers

The United Nations Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) create a popular framework for businesses to engage in sustainability beyond 'business as usual' approaches (Scheyvens et al., 2016), for instance by taking care of the sustainable employability of their employees (Semeijn et al., 2015; Parkin Hughes et al., 2017) and by focusing on individual sustainability competences in the workplace (e.g. Perez Salgado et al., 2018). There are at least two ways of looking at this development. First, employee behaviour is crucial to achieve sustainability on an organisational level. Internal stakeholders may be resistant to implementing sustainable practices, or instead be vigilant and on the lookout for sustainable solutions. Various human factors influence organisational sustainability, including resistance, communication issues, organisational culture and empowerment (Verhulst & Boks, 2012). Hence, employees’ mindset regarding sustainability has an important impact on the sustainable behaviour of their entire organization, and deserves more attention by research.

Second, organisations carry a responsibility to ensure human sustainability. Hence, organisations should contribute to the sustainable careers of their employees, meaning that people should be able to work in a productive, as well as in a healthy and happy way, during their entire career (Veld et al., 2015). Therefore, investments in the lifelong development and learning of employees may be needed on top of the regular human resources practices. This links with the importance of individual sustainability competences (e.g. Rieckmann, 2012; Lambrechts et al., 2013; 2018; Wiek et al., 2011) that aim to enable people to cope with the complexity and uncertainty of sustainability issues. The integration and development of these sustainability competences in the workplace remained understudied until recently (Ploum et al., 2018; Perez Salgado et al., 2018; Lambrechts et al., 2019), warranting more research.

This thematic session is connected to a Special Issue in the Open Access journal Sustainability (impactfactor: 2.075). We especially welcome oral presentations that explore constructive and destructive conflict cases, learning and development issues, the integral management of sustainability at different levels of analysis, and other topics that explore the learning and resilience processes that are relevant for organisational sustainability.

The following list presents issues related (but not limited) to the following areas:

  • How can organisations address the sustainable employability of their employees?
  • How can organisations develop individual sustainability competences in the workplace?
  • What employeelevel factors are related to organisational sustainability, e.g., employee behaviours, such as resistance to sustainability measures or vigilance about sustainability; employee mindset about sustainability?
  • What is the role of processes of sensegiving, sensemaking and sensebreaking in relation to organisational sustainability
  • What is the role of the resilience of employees in relation to organisational sustainability?
  • What human resources practices are relevant for achieving organisational sustainability, how can these be implemented, and what are their effects?
  • How can organisations address individual sustainability competences of their employees?
  • What is the role of hybrid business models and sustainable business model innovation in relation to organisational sustainability?

IS/IT for societal challenges


Societal challenges such as climate change, an aging population, overpopulation, and increasing urbanization ask for innovative solutions. At the same, more and more breakthrough technologies, like the Internet of Things, big data analytics and robotization, are made available in business and society alike. As for Information Technology and Information Systems (IS/IT), profound data analytics, smart devices, and mobile apps, flexible IT-architectures and profound security are of great importance. In general the question is how to prepare for, develop, implement and adopt new technologies, specifically IS/IT, in organizations and everyday life in order to gain maximum benefits in addressing societal challenges.

The main aim of this session is to extend a discussion and debate on the relevance and contributions of IS/IT in the context of societal challenges and organizational dynamics. We intend to bring together practitioners and field experts that account for the wide diversity of topics within this multi-disciplinary domain. In this session, we would like to invite contributions that fit within the scope of this session.

We encourage submissions of a broad range of works, including:

  • Assets, resources, and capabilities, for IS/IT innovation
  • Strategic alignment and co-evolutionary IS alignment perspectives
  • IS/IT-enabled organizational adaption and reconfigurations
  • Big data analytics capabilities
  • IS/IT contributions to policy making and sustainability
  • IS/IT for smart cities
  • EA capabilities, enterprise architecture management, and business agility
  • IT-enabled dynamic capabilities and sustainable business performance
  • Ecological, social, and economic impacts of IS/IT

Panel: Institutional innovation and trust dynamics


Trust in governance is key to the functioning and adaptation of governance systems. In many places waning levels of trust in governance have become an important driver for institutional innovation. The perceived lack of trust in governments and their institutions has triggered governments and civil society organizations to explore new forms of governance and various institutional innovations that should ideally be more effective, inclusive and just. Institutional innovations for example include citizens' assemblies, e-governance, various forms of participatory democracy, shifting roles and responsibilities for public and private actors, new forms of accountability, and novel forms of knowledge production and sharing. Yet little is known about how these institutional innovations actually impact trust dynamics and more in general trust in governance.

The aim of this panel is to further explore the interrelation between institutional innovation and trust dynamics. We invite contributions that present conceptual or empirical insights and that focus, for example, on one of the following topics:

  • Trust and distrust in governance as a driver for institutional innovation
  • Trust in governance as a condition for institutional innovation
  • The influence of institutional innovations on trust and distrust in governance
  • The conceptualization of trust dynamics and their impact on governance
  • The influence of (social) media on trust in governance

Designing resilient heating/cooling systems using ultra-low-temperature sources


Present heating and cooling systems for buildings are primarily based on input of fossil carbon-based energy. These systems are non-resilient because of their 1) associated detrimental environmental impact and 2) insecure future availability and affordability of inputs. More resilient energy supply systems should be based on non-fossil, carbon-free sources. Urban heating solutions already frequently use waste heat from data centers and cooling installations. Increasingly, focus is shifting towards ultra-low-temperature sources as a heat source like ambient air, surface water, ground water and sewage water

These sources have a highly local character, which raises questions of scalability both in terms of size and of replicability. Local ultra-low-temperature sources are often shown to decrease in quality in the long term when heat extraction is too high. This not only jeopardizes the supply of heat in the long term, but may also have adverse effect on the local ecosystem.

With only a limited supply size per source available, ultra-low-temperature heating and cooling systems will often need to connect to a multifold of different sources in order to fulfil heat and cooling demand on a local or regional level. High variability of the characteristics of sources may stand in the way of efficient replication, making that any new project needs to be redesigned from the ground up. A multitude of heat exchanges between the built environment and the natural environment may also result in hitherto unforeseen detrimental environmental effects, which require due investigation.

Questions that arise are:

  • What is the potential of ultra-low-temperature heat sources? To what extend can it provide heat and cold in the built environment in Europe?
  • Can a set of common characteristics be defined for ultra-low-temperature heat sources that allow for quicker replicability?
  • What are the effects of heat and cold extraction on urban and natural ecosystems?
  • How can system design contribute to increasing the supply from individual sources, allowing larger-scale systems to be connected to fewer sources?

In this thematic session we want to explore these questions in more depth.

We invite contributions to this thematic conference session that elaborate on the threats and opportunities of the use of ultra-low temperature source in heating and cooling systems. Contributions are not limited to any specific low-temperature source or any specific region or scale.

Circular economy

Session organizers

A circular economy describes an economic system that is based on business models which replace the 'end-of-life' concept with reducing, alternatively reusing, recycling and recovering materials in production/distribution and consumption processes, thus operating at the micro level (products, companies, consumers), meso level (eco-industrial parks) and macro level (city, region, nation and beyond), with the aim to accomplish sustainable development, which implies creating environmental quality, economic prosperity and social equity, to the benefit of current and future generations (Kirchherr, 2017).

Closed loop supply chains support the transition from end-of-pipe solutions to high level reuse and recycling on an operational level. The field is very diverse and comprehends commercial returns, in particular in E-commerce, warranty, recalls, refurbishing and end-of-life (waste) management. Possible topics include:

  • Packaging waste in International fast food chains: case studies in Indonesia
  • Solid Waste management services in developing countries
  • Learning lessons for E-commerce returns
  • Circular Purchasing

Kirchherr, J. Reike, D. Hekkert, M. (2017). Conceptualizing the circular economy: An analysis of 114 definitions. Resources, Conversation & Recycling 127, pp. 221-232