Integrating Value Considerations in the Decision Making for the Design of Biorefineries

Science and Engineering Ethics 26 (6):2927-2955 (2020)
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Abstract

Biobased production has been promoted as a sustainable alternative to fossil resources. However, controversies over its impact on sustainability highlight societal concerns, value tensions and uncertainties that have not been taken into account during its development. In this work, the consideration of stakeholders’ values in a biorefinery design project is investigated. Value sensitive design is a promising approach to the design of technologies with consideration of stakeholders’ values, however, it is not directly applicable for complex systems like biorefineries. Therefore, some elements of VSD, such as the identification of relevant values and their connection to a technology’s features, are brought into biorefinery design practice. Midstream modulation, an approach to promoting the consideration of societal aspects during research and development activities, is applied to promote reflection and value considerations during the design decision making. As result, it is shown that MM interventions during the design process led to new design alternatives in support of stakeholders' values, and allowed to recognize and respond to emerging value tensions within the scope of the project. In this way, the present work shows a novel approach for the technical investigation of VSD, especially for biorefineries. Also, based on this work it is argued that not only reflection, but also flexibility and openness are important for the application of VSD in the context of biorefinery design.

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Lotte Asveld
Delft University of Technology

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