Prof. Dr Ortwin Renn

Scientific Director
+49 331-28822-463


IASS Project

Systemic Risks

Research Interests

  • Risk governance (assessment, management, communication)
  • Sustainable development (concept, social science perspective)
  • Public participation (theory and practical application)
  • Technology assessment and foresight (methodology, conceptual issues, case studies)
  • Public responses to technological change (attitude research, modernisation theory)

Curriculum Vitae

Professor Renn is a Scientific Director at the Institute for Advanced Sustainability Studies (IASS) in Potsdam (Germany). He remains affiliated to his former institute, the Stuttgart Research Center for Interdisciplinary Risk and Innovation Studies at the University of Stuttgart (ZIRIUS), and continues to direct, together with Dr Marion Dreyer and Agnes Lampke, the non-profit company DIALOGIK, a research institute for the investigation of communication and participation processes. Renn is Adjunct Professor for Integrated Risk Analysis at Stavanger University (Norway) and Affiliate Professor for Risk Governance at Beijing Normal University.

Professor Renn’s main research activities at the IASS focus on the role of systemic risks as threats to sustainable development, and the structures and processes for sustainable transformations in Germany and beyond. In line with IASS tradition, he will specifically investigate transitions related to energy systems and energy governance. Here, he aims to contribute to the mission of the institute to become a highly reputable and acknowledged international centre for transdisciplinary studies on sustainable development.

Professor Renn has a PhD in social psychology from the University of Cologne. His career has included teaching and research positions at the Jülich Research Centre (Germany), Clark University (Worcester, USA), the Swiss Institute of Technology (Zurich) and the Center of Technology Assessment (Stuttgart). He is a member of several boards, including the National Academy of Disaster Reduction and Emergency Management of the People’s Republic of China and the Governing Board of the German Academy of Science and Engineering (acatech). In the past he served on the panel on “Public Participation in Environmental Assessment and Decision Making” of the US National Academy of Sciences in Washington, D.C. (from 2005 to 2007) and on the German Federal Government’s Commission on Energy Ethics after Fukushima (2011). He was elected president of the International Society for Risk Analysis (SRA) for the period from 2012 to 2013. Ortwin Renn has published more than 30 books and 250 articles. The book Risk Governance (Earthscan: London, 2008) is his most prominent monograph.

Selected Publications prior to joining the IASS

  • Bloesch, J., von Hauff, M., Mainzer, K., Mohan, V., Renn, O., Risse, V., Song, Y., Takeuchi, K. and Wilderer, P.: Sustainable Development Integrated in the Concept of Resilence. In: Problems of Sustainable Development, Vol. 10, No. 1 (2015), pp. 7–14
  • Renn, O.: Towards a Socio-Ecological Foundation for Environmental Risk Research. In: S. Lockie, D. A. Sonnenfeld and D. R. Fisher (eds): Routledge International Handbook of Social and Environmental Change. London (Routledge 2014), pp. 207–220
  • Rosa, E.A., Renn, O. and McCright, A. M.: The Risk Society Revisited. Social Theory and Governance. Philadelphia (Temple University Press 2014)
  • Renn, O.: Stakeholder Involvement in Risk Governance. London (Ark Publications: 2014)
  • Renn, O.: Sustainability: The Need for Societal Discourse. In: O. Renn, A. Reichel and J. Bauer (eds): Civil Society for Sustainability. A Guidebook for Connecting Science and Society. Bremen (Europäischer Hochschulverlag EHV 2012), pp. 18–36
  • Renn, O.: The Social Amplification/Attenuation of Risk Framework: Application to Climate Change, Wiley Interdisciplinary Reviews: Climate Change. Vol. 1, Issue 1 (January/February 2011) DOI: 10.1002/wcc.99 (2011)
  • Squires, H. and Renn, O.: Can Participatory Modeling Support Social Learning in Marine Fisheries? Reflections from the Invest in Fish South West Project. Environmental Policy and Governance, Vol. 21, Issue 6 (2011), pp. 403–416
  • Renn, O. and Schweizer, P.: Inclusive Risk Governance: Concepts and Application to Environmental Policy Making. Environmental Policy and Governance, No. 19 (2009), pp. 174–185
  • Renn, O.: Risk Governance. Coping with Uncertainty in a Complex World. London (Earthscan 2008)
  • Renn, O.: Risk Communication: Insights and Requirements for Designing Successful Communication Programs on Health and Environmental Hazards. In: R.L. Heath and H. Dan O’ Hair (eds): Handbook of Risk and Crisis Communication. London (Taylor and Francis 2008), pp. 80–98

Further Information

  • President of the GAIA Association (and Co-Editor of the Interdisciplinary Journal GAIA)
  • President of the European Virtual Risk Institute (EUVRI)
  • Board of Trustees (Foundation: Environment and Disaster Prevention)
  • Scientific Council of the International Risk Governance Council (IRGC), Lausanne
  • State Commission for Sustainable Development (chair until 2012)

Honours and Awards

  • Distinguished Research Award 2017 of the Society for Integrated Risk Management (IDRiM)
  • Outstanding Publication Award from the Environment and Technology Section of the American Sociological Association
  • Fellow of the American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS)
  • Distinguished Achievement Award of the Society for Risk Analysis (SRA)
  • Honorary Doctorate from the Swiss Institute of Technology (Dr. sc. h.c.)
  • Honorary Distinguished Professorship of the Technical University Munich
  • Best Published Article in Risk Analysis 2012: Award by SRA
  • Order of Merit of the Federal Republic of Germany (Bundesverdienstkreuz Erster Klasse) in recognition of scientific achievements in Germany and internationally


Prof. Dr. Ortwin Renn, Scientific Director