Sebastien Soubiran’s research interests cover 20th century science and technology, physics, sismology, innovation technological process within military department (R&D), relations between scientific community and the military, as well as scientific heritage management and science museum.
Sebastien Soubiran thesis work deals with military innovation processes in the interwar period, and focuses particularly on the integration of scientific research. Beyond the study of the innovation process and the evaluation of the protagonists, he intended to understand how the practises of research had been truly introduced and worked upon within the French and British Navies. Those practises, totally ignored by the History of science so far, led to a new understanding of the French and British science between the two World Wars for a number of reasons. First of all, the study deals with scientific practices, within military establishments, thus offers a different point of view from most of the historiography on the science-military relations mainly concerned with academics, university research and industrial research. Secondly, it aims to stress the continuity between scientific knowledge and practical knowledge. Thirdly, the study established the connections between the development of scientific research within the military establishments and the ambition of French and British governments to invest in military technology as a means of reducing the burdens of defence. Thus it raises the question of the use of science as an object for the standardisation and the optimisation of technological development. The study of the way each navy created an administration frame for the scientists received particular attention. The similarity of these frames (a laboratory and a central headquarter department) is all the more striking as they evolved differently within the navy administration, partly because of the social weight of the French military engineer corps.
Since 2003 he is a research engineer, in charge of the development of a management Policy of the scientific collections and museum of the University of Strasbourg. This curating work is completed by research activity with a group of historian of science (among whom is Soraya Boudia) on the process by which sciences – practices, knowledge, cognitive and social forms – are instituted as patrimony or remembrance place, “lieu de mémoire” as defined by Pierre Nora. This research is based on the conviction that memorial practices, particularly within a university, can’t be separated from historical or sociological viewpoint of its motives and the aims it defines. Most specificaly Sebastien studied the relations between the physicists community and their héritage with two case studies : the preservation of the first french nuclear reactor ZOE and the preservation program of physics heritage at the University of Strasbourg.
In the TEUS Project Sebastien is intended to work on the history of seismology in Strasbourg since 1919 and the development of the international board of seismology located in Strasbourg and directed by two french seismologist, father and son : Edmond and Pierre Rothé. A special attention will be put on the relations with the military and the development of a national and oversea network for sismic detection link to nuclear test.
Sebastien is a member of the board of the European network UNIVERSEUM interested in the preservation of european academic héritage. He is also member of the international advisory board of the centre for history of science of the Royal Swedish academy of science.