Implementing responsible research and innovation in research funding and research conducting organisations: What have we learned so far?


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Responsible research and innovation (RRI) has emerged in recent years, especially in Europe, as a science policy framework that (a) seeks to align technological innovation with broader social values and (b) supports institutional decisions concerning the goals and trajectories of research and innovation under conditions of uncertainty, ambiguity and ignorance. Rather than relying simply on consumer choice and market mechanisms on the one hand, or risk-based regulation on the other, RRI seeks to determine what constitute the goals, purposes and trajectories of (and alternatives to) technoscience and innovation, and thus the directions towards which these should be oriented, suggesting that these should be underpinned by shared public values. In addition to this overall philosophy of RRI, the European Commission has focused on five constituent policy keys (sometimes called pillars) of RRI that have their historical roots in the Science-in-Society programme; namely societal engagement, gender in research, open access, science education, and ethics. Action on these keys is seen as integral to an RRI approach and to Europe’s ability to respond to societal challenges. A further issue in the European context concerns how to ‘federate’ the RRI community in the EU and promote institutional changes to foster RRI in research institutions (a topic addressed at the European Commission RRI conference in Rome November 2014). This implies engaging stakeholders, research organisations, universities, funding agencies and public authorities in RRI. Some European research conducting and research funding organisations have begun to make formal policy commitments to RRI; others have developed RRI programmes and others still have embedded explicit RRI elements within broader programmes of emerging technologies and innovation. The European Commission’s ‘open to the world’ agenda implies involving non-European countries in the RRI discourse. However, beyond Europe, in emerging economies in the Global South (Brazil, India and China) and also in some advanced economies (Japan, Australia), there is little awareness of the concept of RRI, although some elements of the EC’s constituent keys have been taken up as thematic priorities by national research organisations. Considerable work needs to be done before RRI is recognised as a concept that offers traction in non-European contexts and research initiatives. There is a dearth of research that has assessed the challenges, efficacy and impact of the ongoing programmes on RRI, partly due to a lack of standardised methodologies that would be required to produce comparative results, and partly because these initiatives are themselves quite new. The project Responsible Research and Innovation in Practice (RRI-Practice), funded by the European Commission Horizon 2020 Science-with-and-for-Society programme (grant no 709 637), is an attempt to respond to this situation. The RRI-Practice project intends to advance European and global awareness of RRI, support its implementation in practice and provide a solid empirical knowledge base on RRI implementation. The main aim of RRI-Practice is to analyse RRI related discourses and pathways to implementation, including barriers and drivers, in a number of research conducting and research funding organisations worldwide, in order to identify, understand, disseminate and promote RRI implementation best practices that can be scaled up at European and global levels. The project started September 2016 and has so far concentrated on mapping the national RRI discourse in the 12 partner countries. As part of this work, national workshops have been held. This paper will present the analytic concept of the project and the results from the workshops, and will reflect on challenges identified in the work so far.




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