Argumentation, Decision, Action (ADA)
last updated: 2010-12-07

“Argumentation, Decision, Action” (ADA). This sequence might seem to reflect a self-evident element of daily life. But it raises a set of questions which form the core of the project presented here: How are arguments constructed? What does it mean to convince or persuade? What are the historical and cultural forms which argumentation takes? How do the uses of argumentation influence power relationships? The originality of the ADA project lies in two characteristics that are already at the centre of the functioning of Maison européenne des sciences de l’homme et de la société de Lille (MESHS) responsible for coordinating the project. One is the ambition to develop a theoretical framework that will encourage and enable interaction between disciplines. The other is the desire to federate the Humanities and Social Sciences (HSS) around their main contributions to public life: informed debate, lucid decision-making and action based on reflection. Starting from the theme of argumentation, the ADA LAbex, involving 19 research laboratories in the Nord, Pas-de-Calais and Picardy regions, aims to create a project that will be common to all the disciplines in the HSS in response to challenges that are both intellectual and social.
Intellectual in that the ambition of the ADA Labex is to fully comprehend argumentation, a familiar concept to all the humanities and social science subjects, from its basic principles to its practical applications. These questions are particularly important as research in the HSS cannot be conceived without recourse to argumentation whether addressed to peers or to the rest of society.
Social because of the transformations that have given rise to societies in which less centralized and hierarchical forms of governance are is proclaimed as the new mode of government, in which argumentation and communication aim to replace the discourse of authority, where the questioning of traditional modes of regulation would seem to require both participation and argumentation.


The scientific programme of the ADA Labex corresponds to the requirements of the National strategy for research and innovation which gives to the humanities and social sciences “a major role in all its priority areas [by participating] most notably in the construction of interdisciplinary interfaces in all the key domains”. The objectives of the Labex are organized into four main areas of research, each of which calls upon a wide variety of knowledge and skills, and of disciplines:

1. Pragmatic argumentation model(s)
This area aims to develop the dialogical approach into a general framework in which argumentation is structured as an interaction or as a game in which two participants exchange ‘blows’ defined by the type of argumentation in question. Over the last thirty years, this approach has produced results which are now classics in logic. What is proposed here is to apply this analysis to other aspects of argumentation (such as persuasion), based on the fact that the heuristic value of games is not limited to the description of the modes of valid inference but can also concern other modes of interaction between the participants such as decision-making.

2. Communication, language and techniques of argumentation
The main object of this area is to study the articulation between the practical and theoretical dimensions of argumentation as well as the relationships between argumentation and other modes of communication. Particular emphasis will be placed on the forms, structures and uses of language, the role of emotion and of nonverbal communication, and the contribution of new technologies to argumentation and to communication. This set of questions will studied from two main angles: modelling the processes of linguistic production of argumentation and the articulation between linguistic and non-linguistic forms of argumentation.

3. Reception of arguments, persuasion and the impact of power
This area will enable us to approach the question of how argumentation is received with respect to its persuasive force and capacity to convince and to ask questions about what it is that makes an argument performative. The social contexts of arguments and their reception will be considered as will the power relationships and the stakes at issue in each case. Two main directions will be followed: first the question of the relationships linking decision-making and behavioural change to argumentation; secondly, the functioning of argumentation in power relationships.

4. Diachronic transformations of argumentative practices
addresses the transformations undergone by argumentation with respect to its performativity and its effectiveness, emphasising the invention and renewal of the forms and techniques of argumentation. The impact of these developments on the skills required for argumentation will be analysed, particularly in a context in which the deliberative or participative imperative is becoming widespread, in which new media and technologies are playing an increasingly important role and in which international and transnational exchanges are becoming more frequent in the economic, political, intellectual and cultural domains.


Education and training is an essential aspect of the ADA Labex project. The objective is to create and develop, around the Labex’s research, programmes of excellence at the Masters and Doctoral level.
The Labex will have a strong involvement in doctoral programmes. An ADA Specialism, designed for candidates recruited through an international recruitment exercise, will be created. Entry will be by a rigorous process of selection and the programme will be regulated by a charter common to the three doctoral schools concerned. All research undertaken through the programme will be funded by the various partners of the project. In addition to its academic excellence, the strong points of this training will be its international scope and its links with business and society: all doctoral students will spend three to six months abroad and will have a mentor from the public or private sector to ensure they have the best opportunities to enter the professional world. The value of this doctoral work will be enhanced in particular by an international prize for the best PhD thesis.
The ADA Labex will also be involved in teaching at Masters level in order to consolidate existing and emerging programmes. Existing Masters programmes will be able, depending on their own strategies, to create modules devoted to argumentation with the help of the ADA Labex. In addition, the Labex will set in place its own interdisciplinary programme through an interdisciplinary “ADA Master plus” proposed by the universities of the PRES Université Lille Nord de France. This MA will aim to provide students with theoretical understanding of and practical skills in argumentation. It will be taught in English and French and entry will be through a rigorous selection process resulting from an international recruitment exercise. A prize for the best dissertation in the “ADA Master Plus” programme will be awarded annually. Finally, the ADA Labex will support the development of continuing education and training, which is currently one of the strong points of the PRES Université Lille Nord de France. It will offer tailor made training programmes in collaboration renowned training centres. Four main constituencies are envisaged: lawyers, elected politicians and union leaders, administrative executives, those involved in social enterprises. In addition, the “ADA Master plus” will be open, on a continuing education basis, to candidates with professional experience.


The involvement of the ADA Labex in continuing education reflects the importance attributed to relations with the social and business sectors and to value enhancement. The ADA Labex aims in this way to develop links between researchers in the HSS and the network of industrial, administrative and social organisations at the local, national and international levels. It intends to develop practical applications in a wide variety of domains: help in decision-making (in association with research in computer sciences and the software industry), political and public communications (particularly in discourse encouraging preventive actions), business, marketing, organizational management (in concert with the Competitiveness Centres) but also, more fundamentally, citizen education and training (in concert with local government in particular). To this end, the project has already received the support of several partners from outside higher education. In order to take this dynamic further, the Labex will develop workshops for reflection and dialogue designed for professionals in the business and social sectors and, in the long term, an “ADA World Forum” which will encourage exchanges between milieus which are often thought to be closed to each other. It goes without saying that the ADA Labex will pay great attention to the academic dissemination of its research, which will further the efforts already under way to structure research in the HSS in the Nord, Pas-de-Calais and Picardy regions. Its aim is to become the centre of reference for interdisciplinary research on argumentation. To this end, advanced-level seminars will be organized, associated with each research area. An ambitious programme of publications in the form of a collection and in international journal of reference as well as an active programme of invitations to senior and junior researchers at the international level, in the form of chairs and post-doctoral scholarships.


The ADA Labex draws on a significant research potential in the humanities and social sciences, recognized both by the evaluations of the AERES and by the ministry of Higher education (Strater evaluation). It is coordinated by an institution that has, over the last few years, proved its ability to enable innovative pluridisciplinary research: the Maison européenne des sciences de l’homme et de la société (MESHS). Involving 19 research laboratories in the Nord Pas-de-Calais and Picardy regions (some of which already have an international reputation for their work on questions involved in argumentation and all of which are committed to creating a transversal research area on the topic) it brings together researchers, lecturers and professors representing almost all the HSS sections of the French National University Council and the Institute of Human and Social Sciences. It makes an important contribution to the strategies of the higher education and research bodies (universities, PRES, CNRS) regarding excellence initiatives and is strongly supported by its partners in the public, business and social sectors.

The ADA Labex will therefore take the form of an interdisciplinary research grouping associating Joint research units (UMR) and a host teams around a Joint research and service unit (the MESHS) which will be the main partner of the project and will enable it to achieve the expected pull effects. The ADA Labex will be led by a General Director and a Scientific Director. The General Director, who will also be the director of the MESHS, will be the intermediary between the various parties involved in the consortium and the ANR. It will commit the necessary resources for the Labex project to be undertaken. The Scientific Director will set up and supervise the running of the scientific programme. With the assistance of a project manager, the General Director and the Scientific Director will be guided by several bodies: a Managing Council, a Labex Council, an Academic and strategic committee and a Value Enhancement council. A consortium agreement will define the missions and the functioning of these different bodies. This management structure reflects the desire to respect the relative autonomy and the particular disciplinary requirements of each of the partner laboratories, as well as to provide the means to achieve a true policy of excellence, enabling truly interdisciplinary research, open to society as a whole, to be undertaken.

The ADA Labex project is therefore motivated by an ambitious goal and a fundamental conviction. Pluridisciplinarity and interdisciplinarity should make it possible to overcome some of the obstacles encountered by each of the humanities and social science disciplines when they try to address the question of argumentation by themselves. They should also bring about innovative answers which will make this Labex a centre of reference at the international level. More fundamentally, this project aims to ensure that the humanities and social sciences go beyond the role of adjunct to which they are often, unjustly, assigned. It also corresponds to the expectations of the National Strategy for Research and Innovation which assigns to the HSS a central role, based on their ability to set in motion interdisciplinary dialogues in order to reflect on the transformations of social, economic and political practices and to enrich public debate by privileging communication, whether from top to bottom or bottom to top. By developing a programme of research excellence open to the world around it, the “Argumentation, Decision, Action” Labex intends to be equal to the challenges raised by the future of our societies.


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CNRSMinistère de l'enseignement supérieur et de la recherche
 Région Nord-Pas-de-Calais
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