Find out what RRI means,
why it is important and how to foster it
- Involving society in science and innovation ‘very upstream' in the processes of R&I to align its outcomes with the values of society.
- A wide umbrella connecting different aspects of the relationship between R&I and society: public engagement, open access, gender equality, science education, ethics, and governance.
- A cross-cutting issue in Horizon 2020, the EU Programme for Research and Innovation 2014-2020.
Science and technology are transformative forces that have granted humans the capacity to alter ecosystems, the Earth’s climate, and even the building blocks of matter and life itself. R&I have improved our world and our lives in many ways, and will most likely continue to do so.
However, parallel to the large positive impact on human welfare and wellbeing, science and technology sometimes create new risks and ethical dilemmas, fail in solving the problems they are meant to, and spur controversy.
Over the last decades many efforts have tried to reduce the distance between science and society, leading to a European-wide approach in Horizon 2020 called Responsible Research and Innovation. RRI seeks to bring issues related to research and innovation into the open, to anticipate their consequences, and to involve society in discussing how science and technology can help create the kind of world and society we want for generations to come.
Does RRI mean that current R&I is irresponsible? Not at all. Many R&I practices already pay attention to some aspects within the RRI concept. However, significant improvement is possible, especially in considering the holistic approach provided by RRI.
What about ‘basic’ or ‘fundamental’ research? RRI challenges basic researchers to build bridges to society too. Only then will we, as R&I community, manage to bring science into democracy, and democracy into science.
RRI entails engaging all actors (from individual researchers and innovators to institutions and governments) through inclusive, participatory methodologies in all stages of R&I processes and in all levels of R&I governance (from agenda setting, to design, implementation, and evaluation).
This in turn will help R&I tackle societal challenges — like the seven Grand Challenges formulated by the EC — and align to values, needs and expectations of a wide public. This is not only ethically and societally worthwhile, but also produces better science, making research agendas more diverse and taking better account of real-world complexities.
To reach these outcomes, practicing a more responsible research and innovation requires that processes are:
The European Commission has provided more concrete normative orientations in the form of six policy keys that RRI should further:
Research and innovation can only be labelled ‘responsible’ in case (1) they are aimed at particular outcomes, (2) certain process dimensions are met, and (3) several policy agendas are adopted.
RRI’s aim is to create a society in which R&I practices strive towards sustainable, ethically acceptable, and socially desirable outcomes.
RRI does so in such a way that the responsibility for our future is shared by all people and institutions affected by and involved in R&I.
- the focus of research and innovation to achieve a social benefit and the involvement of all stakeholders in society;
- prioritising social, ethical and environmental impacts and opportunities;
- anticipating and managing risks to adapt quickly to changing circumstances.
- openness and transparency becoming an integral component of the research and innovation process.
- challenge to ask ourselves "what kind of future we want innovation to bring into the world";
- an emphasis on science for society, focusing on research and innovation targeted at the major challenges and the ‘right impacts', underpinned by a deliberative democracy;
- an emphasis on science with society, in which deliberation and reflection are coupled with action, which focuses on institutionalised responsiveness;
- the framing of responsibility in the context of research and innovation as collective activities with uncertain and unpredictable consequences, "challenging scientists, innovators, business partners, research funders and policy-makers to reflect on their own roles and responsibilities".
- means that societal actors work together during the whole research and innovation process in order to better align both the process and its outcomes, with the values, needs and expectations of European society;
- is an ambitious challenge for the creation of a Research and Innovation policy driven by the needs of society and engaging all societal actors via inclusive, participatory approaches;
- is framed by six key issues: engagement, gender equality, science education, open access, ethics, and governance.
"Responsible Research and Innovation is
- a transparent, interactive process
- by which societal actors and innovators become mutually responsive to each other
- with a view to the ethical acceptability, sustainability, and societal desirability of the innovation process and its marketable products
- in order to allow a proper embedding of scientific and technological advances in our society."
- anticipation in governance
- inclusion of new voices
- responsiveness in the innovation systems
- gather all relevant knowledge about RRI,
- establish a common, working definition for it
- test it in an iterative process with the wide range of stakeholders that will be involved in the project
- share it with the growing RRI Community of Practice
- The state of the art of RRI and a working definition of RRI: RRI Tools Policy Brief #1
- Report on the quality criteria of Good Practice Standards in RRI: RRI Tools D1.3
- A catalogue of good RRI practices: RRI Tools D1.4
- Find some recommended resources from the Toollkit on the RRI concept