Since 2010, the term “Responsible Research and Innovation” (RRI) has gained increasing policy relevance. In particular, within the European Commission’s Science with and for Society program, framed within the European Union Horizon 2020 framework programme. However, this term is scarcely used in science, technology and innovation policy in countries outside of Europe. The absence of a narrative of RRI does not imply that the components involving the RRI paradigm are absent from the practical and political logic of these countries, as we shall see below.
During the first years of the SUPER MoRRI project, the consortium has been reflecting on how to develop a monitoring framework for RRI. Of course, such a framework aims to be as inclusive as possible to be effectively useful. If we want to involve non-European countries in RRI monitoring, then we should reflect on how to integrate their perspectives into ours and how the different concepts included under RRI manifest within different contexts or regions.
That is why the SUPER MoRRI project has a work package dedicated to the international dimension, with the aim of promoting responsibility in research and innovation globally, enabling mutual learning about RRI and RRI-like activities beyond Europe. The internationalisation activities of SUPER MoRRI have begun with the formal constitution in 2019 of a network of 10 International Satellite Partners (ISP) from different countries and regions outside Europe. This network acts as a global sounding board for SUPER MoRRI and represents and articulates important non-European perspectives.
In our first round of consultations regarding RRI monitoring with the ISPs a series of proposals and reflections on the subject emerged. Here we share with you some of them:
1) Benefits for RRI monitoring:
Some potential benefits were identified in our discussions with ISPs. The list we present here is not an exhaustive list of all the benefits of monitoring RRI, but the most outstanding elements that emerged from these consultations and that have made us think.
- To inform and guide policies to mitigate social asymmetries
- To build arguments for stakeholders to be involved in research and innovation
- To increase knowledge and understanding about the relationship between science and society
- To have data available for cross-national studies on RRI issues and case-studies for educational purposes
- To learn from comparisons between different entities, universities or faculties
- To learn from time-based comparisons involving the same entity
- To benchmark the institution nationally and internationally
- To use governance indicators to monitor the transitioning of RRI from altering research and innovation funding and practice to altering innovation and industrial policies.
2) Challenges for RRI monitoring:
During the conversations with our international partners, reflections also emerged on the challenges that we may face with RRI monitoring. Here we show you some of these reflections that invite us to continue thinking about this issue.
- “If the RRI monitoring process has no direct bearing to the levels that are closer to an individual (e.g. individual, project or employing organisation), any well-intended opportunities for learning and benefit might eventually be lost”.
- “True monitoring of overly complex and human activities such as research is a too naïve effort, especially if solely based on quantitative metrics”
- “RRI monitoring could be beneficial only if operators are not too much of an aggregate level (sector, system or country) but it would not be beneficial if operates at high levels of aggregation.”
- “There is a lack of diversity present within the gender equality key issue. This is particularly relevant within countries with first-nation or indigenous people.”
3) Proposals for a better understanding of indicators:
Our international partners also suggested some elements to consider to improve the understanding of the indicators. Here we present some of their observations.
- A short video (or other kind of visual information) to give an overview of RRI
- It would be useful to provide more background information, such as a short description for each indicator or examples of data sources or data information, especially for stakeholders that are not necessarily specialised in the field of science and technology;
- Public engagement, science literacy and science education were the indicators identified as the most “challenging” to be equally understood. ISP suggested to include a practical guide type publication with clear information about how to apply the indicators.
Conclusions / takeaways / lessons / discussion
There is still a long way to go in our reflections on the internationalisation of RRI beyond Europe. At the moment one of the tasks in which the SUPER MoRRI consortium is involved is in data collection. Some of the ISPs will also be involved in this process along with the European Country Correspondents Network in order to obtain data that allow us to make comparisons with European countries. These data will also help us to better identify the differences between countries outside of Europe and to be able to take these elements into account to improve the project’s outputs.
One of the aims of SUPER MoRRI project is to create a debate around RRI, for example this has been also done in the monthly discussion sessions with the SWAFS Ecosystem, in the stakeholder workshop, the annual event in 2020 and the benefit colloquia that are taking place in December 2020 and January 2021. More debate arenas will continue to be proposed throughout the project and the involvement of this international network offer us a constant and necessary input to continue growing and include visions that enrich the project and favor implementation. Moreover, the next annual event will take place virtually and interaction with stakeholders outside of Europe will be favoured, with the participation of our ISPs being a key element in fostering discussion about the benefits of monitoring RRI.
More information available in the links below:
- December 7, 2020