HomeWell-living indicators

Well-living indicators

Les indicateurs du bien-vivre

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Published on Monday, January 15, 2018 by Céline Guilleux


The symposium will be held in Grenoble during the International Forum for Well-Living. Within the framework of the forum, a symposium with separate meetings will be arranged for academics and scientists interested in similar issues in diverse research fields: biology, medicine, psychology, sociology, geography, anthropology, economics, law, politics…



The symposium will be held in Grenoble from 6-8 June 2018 during the International Forum for Well-Living.

Organized by Grenoble Alpes University in partnership with local authorities (Grenoble Alpes Métropole and the City of Grenoble) and with Non-Governmental Organizations (Terre Solidaire, Forum pour d’Autres Indicateurs de Richesse…), the Forum will offer time and space for sharing experiences, data and debates between the different partners on the conditions of sustainable development in our contemporary societies and the well-living of their members. Within the framework of the forum, a symposium with separate meetings will be arranged for academics and scientists interested in similar issues in diverse research fields: biology, medicine, psychology, sociology, geography, anthropology, economics, law, politics… and many others.

The present call for papers focuses on five main topics:

The concept

Criticisms of economic growth and Gross Domestic Product have expanded over the last thirty years, incidentally generating a large range of alternative concepts, notions or categories: human development (United Nation Program for Development), better-life (Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development), happiness (Bhutan), buen-vivir (Ecuador), etc. This “semantic effervescence” does not contribute much to the clarification of debates about new indicators. And the problem appears more complex as the meaning of these concepts, notions or categories may vary between scientific disciplines. Well-being, for instance, does not mean exactly the same in medicine, psychology or socioeconomics.

Nevertheless, some convergences can also be observed. Thus the issue is commonly apprehended as a multidimensional phenomenon considering: health, sociability, work, education and culture, civil liberties and civic participations, natural and social environments… including subjective appreciations and judgments formulated according to one's situation. Even if the dimensions selected often differ from one concept to another, it seems that the well-living of an individual depends on the system of interactions (not only monetary) he or she can produce – and which also produces him or her– and the capacity individuals and collectives have, both by law and in reality, to improve it, the real development of a community or a society.

This approach in terms of a continuum, from genome to social and natural environments, considering all the intermediate regulations (epigenetic, psychosociological, economic, institutional…), profoundly questions some of the pillars of dominant Western and modern intellectual tradition. Concepts from other cultures (sumak kawsay in Quechua or Ubuntu in Bantu, for instance) underline the fundamental interdependence of the relationship between individuals and their collectives; the singular and, if not the universal, at least the common; culture and nature... These concepts could offer an opportunity to (re)discover other intellectual currents in modern Western thought that highlight the founding dimension of relationship, and to found a paradigm to better understand the complexity of well-living.


Research on new indicators generated many empirical experiments at different territorial scales: many countries, regions or districts, and cities, all over the world, now use alternative or complementary indicators in order to evaluate the well-living of their inhabitants. Many institutions or companies also use similar indicators for their staff, users or clients.

Each experiment has its own coherence and implements its own methodology depending on: the number and the nature of the dimensions of what could be considered as well-living (or wellbeing, or happiness, etc.); if they process data from public statistics and/or from ad hoc surveys; whether they produce any composite indicators or not, etc. Similar problems can be observed at other levels of approach. In biology and medicine different biomarkers can be used to identify a relevant signature of well-being (and/or ill-being). In psychology, several models are still in competition to evaluate well-being within the family, at work, etc. This multiplicity of methods makes any comparison between territories or levels of approach rather problematic. Spatial information processing or geomatics perhaps offer solutions

Each of theses methodological elements can be discussed but we can also ask a crosscutting question: how could it be possible to make all these methodologies converge? Is it even desirable? Yet, a better coordination of approaches and methods may be needed to avoid a good measure at the scale of one territory (or one level of approach) having negative impacts on another.


Today, many experiments involve residents’ participation in the process of designing new indicators at different territorial scales. In these cases, it is not simply yet another methodological precaution in order to validate the indicators but a way to achieve one of their goals. Social participation could even be considered as a condition for well-living: at least as a way to empower individuals and collectives and enhance their capabilities.

In some preventive and non-pharmacological medical interventions, participation is also required from people, eventually patients: to obtain not only long term effects on health, but also sustainable changes in living conditions. Positive psychology, likewise, encourages the development of a "power to act" of individual and collectives: less in order to improve their adaptation than to free them from the structural constraints.

The relationship between indicators and participation, however, also deserves to be questioned in terms of structuring effects that impact the latter, if only by the usual "participative bias". In addition, what becomes of participation, once the indicators are developed or selected? Finally, one wonders whether moving from deliberative phases to (quantitative) indicators entails the loss of initial meanings?


Finally, by describing a new representation of reality, new indicators could also involve a new power economy between institutions and citizens, inhabitants or users.

Many experiments, however, struggle to make an effective transition from knowledge to transformative action. Under what conditions can such indicators help to renew individual, collective and institutional modes of action? What types of responses are associated with the identification of the social and environmental needs revealed by these indicators?

Yet the question is also about the fundamental meaning of this action. Politics of happiness emerged in the eighteenth century, notably through the constitutional texts. But the excesses of utilitarianism have largely contributed to objectify happiness. How can a renewed action for well-living avoid the pitfalls of the new utilitarianism that underlies the economy of happiness and of the new scientism based on some approaches in neuroscience (particularly in neuroeconomics)?

The contribution of academic or scientific research to well-living

While the evaluation of scientific research is now subject to indicators as reductive as GDP in the field of economics, we can raise the question of its real contribution to the well-being of populations.

The academic world is now equipped to evaluate the quality of its scientific production. Institutional and socio-economic actors have worked for years on the development of indicators in terms of the transfer and valorization of research. But the real contribution of a research project to well-living is largely ignored, probably because of the lack of a referential.  As the forum also brings together public authorities and representatives of civil society, it is perhaps also a relevant opportunity to discuss the value of research from the point of view of the environments in and through which it is developing.

Submission guidelines


Proposals may be submitted in the following languages: French, English, Spanish, and Portuguese.

Key dates

16 February 2018: submission of proposals

(3,000 signs) together with a one page CV.

1 March 2018: selection of proposals.

The selected communications will last 30 minutes.

Contact and submission : pierre.le-queau@univ-grenoble-alpes.fr

Scientific committee

  • Céline Baeyens, psychologie, LIP/PC2S (EA 4145), SFR Santé Société, UGA ;
  • Nicolas Buclet, économie, PACTE (UMR 5194), UGA ;
  • Isabelle Cassiers, économie, UC Louvain ;
  • Patrick Criqui, économie, GAEL (5313, 1215) CNRS-INRA ;
  • Gregoire Feyt, géographie, PACTE (UMR 5194), UGA ;
  • Elsa Guillalot, sciences politiques, PACTE (UMR 5194), IEP/UGA ;
  • Pierre Hily-Blant, astrophysique, IPAG (UMR 5274), UGA ;
  • Bruno Lamotte, économie, CREG (EA 4625), UGA ;
  • Pierre Le Quéau, sociologie, PACTE (UMR 5194), UGA ;
  • Christophe Moinard, pharmacie, LBFA / Inserm U1055 ;
  • Fiona Ottaviani, économie, CREG (EA 4625), GEM/UGA ;
  • Christophe Pison, médecine, CHU, UGA ;
  • Michel Renault, économie, CREM (UMR 6211), Rennes ;
  • Karen Scott, geography, Exeter.
  • Rebecca Shankland, psychologie, LIP/PC2S (EA 4145), UGA.


  • Université Grenoble Alpes
    Grenoble, France (38)


  • Friday, February 16, 2018


  • bien-être, bien-vivre, solidarité, développement, santé, territoire


  • Pierre Le Quéau
    courriel : pierre [dot] le-queau [at] univ-grenoble-alpes [dot] fr

Information source

  • Pierre Le Quéau
    courriel : pierre [dot] le-queau [at] univ-grenoble-alpes [dot] fr

To cite this announcement

« Well-living indicators », Call for papers, Calenda, Published on Monday, January 15, 2018, https://calenda.org/428504

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