Throughout year one of the SUPER MoRRI project, we have been engaged in putting together a Strategic Plan for developing a monitoring framework for responsible research and innovation. This plan is designed to set a course for the remaining four years of the project. However, we have also tried to think through the planning with a longer-term future in mind.
The plan sets out an agenda for monitoring progress toward more responsible ways of doing scientific research and propelling science-driven innovation. The focus is on monitoring research and innovation practices and institutions, to support those stakeholders interested in building a research and innovation system that better serves the needs of both science and society. The strategic plan therefore envisages monitoring that goes well beyond what we might term ‘RRI practices’, although these are of course a set of activities and projects that have an important place within this broader framing of the monitoring task.
The existing conceptual approaches to responsible research and innovation are consistent in viewing engagement among diverse constellations of actors as the key driver of enhanced responsibility in both research and innovation. A connection is assumed between opening up participation in research and innovation activities and increased consideration of relevant environmental and societal uncertainties, alongside often pressing scientific problems and complex technical challenges. A starting point for monitoring is thus to improve our understanding about this core principle and to explore what can be learned about its effects.
The ambition outlined in the strategic plan is thus quite a loft one! The intention is that the monitoring framework will provide interested stakeholders with resources that can help them to plan and progress toward more responsible practices and strategies. We are strongly committed to doing this in such a way that the data and information we provide is itself presented, and made interpretable, in appropriate ways. We call this a ‘responsible quantification’ approach. A related conceptual innovation we are working on for the benefit of users is what we (currently) call ‘credible contextualisation’. This is the idea that any indicators we develop should, first, pass through a co-creation phase with potential users, and second, be accompanied by guidance on the degree of interpretive ‘stickiness’ of the indicator. By stickiness we mean the capacity of the indicator to support interpretations or generalisations beyond the immediate context of the indicators production. This is quite a challenging innovation that will be the subject of an upcoming blogpost of its own, for which we are expecting plenty of critical feedback!
The SUPER MoRRI strategic plan is one of three interlinked pillars supporting the development of the monitoring framework. A second pillar is the Implementation Plan which sets out a number of predominantly pattern studies that will generate new data for monitoring at different levels of organisation of research and innovation. To date studies are planned at the levels of researchers and their groups, research funders, researcher performing organisations and citizens, using combinations of secondary data and new data generated by SUPER MoRRI. The third pillar is the Case Research Plan which covers another set of exploratory studies focused on how processes and pathways can enhance responsibility in research and innovation.
Alongside these new research undertakings, the strategic plan strongly supports a pragmatic approach that takes advantage of existing data and information sources and initiatives (for example through new combinations of data). An important aspect of this pragmatic approach is to also build on the work of the prior MoRRI project; through strengthening, recalibrating and repurposing these blueprints to best provide relevant data and information for users of the monitoring framework.
Finally, we should say that the SUPER MoRRI strategic plan itself represents a concerted exercise in reflexivity and self-monitoring that will inevitably evolve and be updated as we engage and learn and as our horizons change.