Part 4, European Governance within Responsible Innovation

This week we take a look at Chapter 3 of the book Responsible Innovation, a Narrative Approach, that you can download here.

The European Commission Approach

The European Commission has its own take on responsible innovation (RI) and its own acronym. In these circles the term RRI is used, standing for Responsible Research and Innovation, reflecting the use of the concept within its research funding mechanisms. This terminology has been in use since (about) 2011, and since then RRI has become a cross-cutting issue in the most recent calls for research funding after steadily growing in importance.

For those who may not know, the European commission funds research throughout and beyond Europe, publishing calls for project proposals that fit within different categories. This fits within a policy of promoting innovation as an economic driver, following the line that innovation will bring jobs and economic growth.

The RRI inclusion brings in the idea that this research should work towards addressing some of the societal challenges that EU citizens face. This idea grows out of EU treaties, as do the ways that the idea of RRI are put into practice.

The challenges are the following:

  • Health, demographic change and wellbeing
  • Food security, sustainable agriculture and forestry, marine and maritime and inland water research and the bioeconomy
  • Secure, clean and efficient energy
  • Smart, green and integrated transport
  • Climate action, environment, resource efficiency and raw materials
  • Europe in a changing world – inclusive, innovative and reflective societies
  • Secure societies – protecting freedom and security of Europe and its citizens.

It’s difficult to work out exactly how much money we are talking about here, but somewhere in the region of 70 billion Euros over 7 years for the current funding program, a figure that is put around 500 billion for the coming call. The book details where you can find all of the documents that explain how and why this path is being followed.

How to Proceed?

Within the approach there are several issues that each research project must address:

 Public Engagement

  • the establishment of inclusive participatory multi-actor dialogues between researchers, policy makers, industry and civil society organizations, NGOs, and citizens;
  • to foster mutual understanding and co-create research and innovation outcomes and policy agendas effective in tackling societal challenges,
  • fostering wider acceptability of results.

Open Access

Making research findings available free of charge for readers. This has been a core strategy in the European Commission to improve knowledge circulation and thus innovation. It is illustrated in particular by the general principle for open access to scientific publications in Horizon 2020 and the pilot for research data.

Gender

  • Fostering gender balance in research teams, in order to close the gaps in the participation of women.
  • Ensuring gender balance in decision-making, in order to reach the target of 40% of the under-represented sex in panels and groups and of 50% in advisory groups.
  • Integrating the gender dimension in research and innovation (R&I) content, helps improve the scientific quality and societal relevance of the produced knowledge, technology and/or innovation.

Ethics

Amongst others, the following ethical issues must be addressed:

  • the involvement of children, patients, vulnerable populations,
  • the use of human embryonic stem cells,
  • privacy and data protection issues,
  • research on animals and non-human primates.

Science education

A sustainable and cross-cutting interaction between the relevant actors in the field is crucial:

  • different levels of the education system,
  • universities and other higher education establishments,
  • research and innovation funding and performing organizations,
  • civil society organizations and NGO’s,
  • industry, policy-makers,
  • professors,
  • teachers,
  • students and pupils,
  • Science museums and science centres.

The book chapter goes into greater detail, before offering an overview of several of the projects that have been completed over recent years through this mechanism, which I hope offers a more concrete idea of how this money is being used.

The chapter concludes with an interview with René von Schomberg, widely seen as the architect of this move. I have written a previous post about him here, but the book offers more detail gained through a series of interviews.

Part 3, The Academic Approach to Responsible Innovation

In part 3 of this series we return to chapter 2 of the downloadable book.

Academic Books about Responsible Innovation

If we want to get an overview of the academic approach, we have to start with the first collection of articles in English: Responsible Innovation, Managing the Responsible Emergence of Science and Innovation in Society, published in 2013 and edited by Richard Owen, John Bessant and Maggie Heintz . This collection set the groundwork by addressing many of the themes that were to follow:

1. Identifying and managing the risks of innovation in the present and future

2. Building reflexive capacity into science and innovation to identify and manage the unanticipated wider impacts of innovation

3. Opening up dialogue around innovation and emerging technologies to understand wider acceptability and public concerns

4. Regulation, governance and adaptive management

5. Key questions regarding the concepts of responsibility, accountability and liability.

The book includes the influential concept of Value Sensitive Design from Jeroen van den Hoven that I mentioned in part one of this series alongside addressing the fundamental issues of governance, problems of communicating science, debate and dialogue, anticipation and hype.

A further font of publication has been the S.NET group. S.NET is the Society for the Study of Nanoscience and Emerging Technologies, with their series of publications leading the way with an entire collection related to the governance of science and scientific research.

The International Handbook on Responsible Innovation is the newest collection, edited by Rene von Schomberg and myself. Released in 2019, the handbook gathers together 65 authors and 36 chapters bringing together the main developments within the field since its inception.

The publishers Springer have a book series called Responsible Innovation that offers articles based upon work presented at a series of responsible innovation conferences hosted by the Netherlands Organization for Scientific Research. Many of the authors are Dutch, reflecting the importance of the Netherlands in the development of a particular standpoint on RI born from its governmental funded Responsible Innovation project.

Themes Addressed

One of the themes that is prevalent in the academic debate (and also from an EU perspective, something that I will look at in part 4), is public deliberation and involvement in the research process. As the field of responsible innovation has developed, this topic has become a core issue, as the idea that innovation should work for the public good must be based on an understanding of what the public want. This is not an unproblematic field however, as politics and power relations play their respective roles, and lots of literature has aimed to raise these issues (see the book chapter for further details).

A further group of researchers have embarked upon ethnographic fieldwork in order to find some answers to various questions about what actually happens if researchers aim to put a responsible innovation process into practice in real life settings, recounting their experiences (including about how their actions were interpreted by those involved).

Factors that come up include material barriers to participation and various issues related to the difficulty of stakeholder involvement, language and communication, politics, power, selection of public, alongside a host of others that are typical to the social sciences in general.

Journal of Responsible Innovation

As the name suggests, this journal is dedicated to responsible innovation. It is currently in its seventh volume, and represents about a third of all journal publications that address the issue of responsible innovation. From January 2021 the journal will be open access (it currently contains a mix of open access and paywall articles), containing articles from across the field that address all of the aspects so far discussed and much more from a host of different perspectives and standpoints.

The Bassetti Foundation website contains a series of reviews of the journal (each article is summarized), all of which are available here.

Several other journals publish academic articles about responsible innovation, names and details are available in the book.

Summary

There is a lot of academic literature out there, much of which is available open access. The field is very wide and multidisciplinary which means there is great variety. The academic field is only one of many within responsible innovation though, next week we will look at another, European governance approaches and policies regarding research funding.

Responsible Innovation, a Free Introductory Course (with book)

Introduction

As readers might know, I am a great champion of open access publications. One of the great things that the inclusion of the concept of Responsible Innovation into European Union policy has been the explosion of open access reports and books.

These reports etc. are written by people who are at the top of their fields, and they have generally been written in a more accessible way so that non experts can understand them. If you scroll back over the last year you will find many of them reviewed on the website.

Last year I was fortunate enough to work on editing a book, it is available as hardback, or on download, but is not free. It is a commercial publication and I have to admit in my line of work that we do need publishers, and they need to make money. So it’s not free.

Last month I had another book published through the University of Bergamo. This time though it is available on Amazon in paperback or Kindle format but also on free download via the University. Therefore, anybody who would like to download it and have a look is free to do so. And I would like to offer a guide through it.

But what is it about? I hear you say.

Follow The Book Online

Over the coming weeks I am going to write a series of posts that offer an overview, to see if I can tempt you into buying a paperback or downloading it. But we could say that it’s about decision-making in innovation. Broader than that it is about how people who work together cooperate to build and share an understanding of what the right way to do something is.

Can we see this ‘right way of doing it’ as being constructed right there, in the workplace? What if some of the team changes and new people with new ideas come in? How might that change the way things are viewed?

These questions can be addressed to any workplace, but (as we might imagine on Technologybloggers), my interest is in how technology is developed and how the trajectory of this development path is steered.

This might not seem like an important question at first glance, but I think it is. The development of systems and disruptive technologies brings huge changes, and the questions asked during this development process change it, making its possibilities change.

Ask not what the technology can do for you, but how you can affect its development.

The COVID crisis had led to innovation across entire systems. The trajectory of a wide range of technologies has been changed by users. We have expanded the list of the right ways to work with tools (that may be programs or infrastructure, 3D printers or networks.

Returning to the book. The chapters can be read independently, so I am going to offer an overview each week of the questions raised. If you would like to follow the narration with a book, just download your free copy here. I will try to provide you with a University level Introduction to Responsible Innovation course.

I hope to make you curiouser and curiouser.