Coordination mechanisms in new constellations of responsibility in science and technology
Location 117b
Date and Start Time 01 September, 2016 at 09:00
Sessions 2


  • Simone Arnaldi (University of Padua) email
  • Toni Pustovrh (University of Ljubljana) email

Mail All Convenors

Short Abstract

The notion of responsibility is gaining importance in shaping S&T in Europe and beyond. The track explores more formal intermediary mechanisms, such as TA bodies, ethics committees, etc, but also less formal ones, such as stakeholder forums, engagement exercises, etc, that coordinate responsibility.

Long Abstract

The recent S&T discourse is characterized by the increasing importance of responsibility in S&T governance. In Europe, the notion of Responsible Research and Innovation (RRI) is the most prominent example, and now a "cross-cutting issue" of the new Framework Programme Horizon 2020. The debate focused both on identifying a prescriptive framework for S&T and innovation to be responsible, and on describing and analysing responsible governance arrangements in concrete settings. Yet, the latter treated the different sites where responsibility is framed (e.g. research laboratories, media, policymaking) as separate, missing that responsible governance arrangements emerge across different domains as results of their coordination.

Science and Technology Studies have developed a set of tools for investigating how concepts and objects inhabit several intersecting social worlds, effectively coordinating different actions and networks. Notions like boundary objects, boundary organizations, intermediary organizations, trading zones, etc. have been elaborated to explore such intermediation mechanisms. Such research has focused on processes of knowledge transfer, technology diffusion, etc. The aim of this track is therefore to use the logic of intermediation to explore the bodies and sites that construct responsibility across different societal domains and how they interact. The track invites theoretical, empirical and methodological contributions from different fields on how responsibility is (re-)formulated and coordinated across domains. More formal mechanisms, such as ethics committees, TA bodies, knowledge transfer facilities, and less formal ones, such as stakeholder forums, public engagement, etc., are indicative, but not exhaustive, of cases we wish to explore.


This track is closed to new paper proposals.


Old wines in new bottles? Societal Engagement under the terms of RRI

Authors: Anja Bauer (Alpen-Adria-Universität Klagenfurt)  email
Alexander Bogner (Austrian Academy of Sciences)  email
Daniela Fuchs (Austrian Academy of Sciences)  email

Short Abstract

We discuss the requirements for societal engagement under the RRI paradigm. Based on empirical analysis of public participation in neuro-enhancement and synthetic biology we ask how these requirements are met and how co-responsibility and responsiveness is strived for in emerging technology areas.

Long Abstract

Societal engagement is a key dimension of the Responsible Research and Innovation (RRI) approach, aiming towards making science, technology and innovation more transparent, interactive and responsive. While societal engagement in science and technology is not new, the notion of co-responsibility suggests new demands and challenges for the dialogue between science, society and politics.

Based on a systematic review of scholarly literature and policy documents we discuss different ways in which societal engagement is conceptualized in the context of RRI. By comparison to existing approaches of public participation in S&T we specify whether and to what extent RRI introduces novel perspectives of and requirements for societal engagement in research and innovation. From an STS perspective we are particularly interested in how the notion of co-responsibility is co-produced along with changing representations of research and innovation and shifting boundaries between science and society.

We then empirically analyse current practices of societal engagement in the areas neuro-enhancement and synthetic biology. In two EU-projects, NERRI and Synenergene, so-called Mutual Learning Exercises (MLEs) were developed and tested as instruments to foster the early dialogue between science and society. We ask in how far the MLEs meet the new requirements of RRI and serve as sites for the coordination and negotiation of responsibility and responsiveness in technology areas with highly visionary character. We conclude that while single MLEs are often still driven by traditional conceptions of science-society relations, the MLEs' potential for RRI may unfold as parts of emerging deliberative systems on science and innovation.

Dynamics of Responsible Innovation Constituents along Innovation Processes: Explaining the Variations from a Network Theory Perspective

Authors: Jolita Ceicyte (Kaunas University of Technology)  email
Vincent Blok (Wageningen University)  email
Monika Petraitė (Kaunas University of Technology)  email

Short Abstract

In our paper we argue that the firms’ collaboration (knowledge & technology) network is the main mediator for the implementation of RI activities in the innovation process, and that network as a platform is the quickest way to disseminate the integration of RI activities into the business practices.

Long Abstract

Based on the assumption that the integration of Responsible Innovation (RI) activities (anticipation, inclusion, responsiveness, and reflexivity (AIRR)) into the whole innovation process (Stilgoe, Owen, and Macnaghten, 2013) can help companies best to achieve Responsible Innovation, yet in practice companies apply these activities just right before innovation commercialization (cf. Blok, Hoffmans and Wubben, 2015). Therefore, our research question is how to ensure that RI activities (AIRR) would be integrated from the very beginning and throughout the innovation process in R&D and knowledge intensive firms?

To explore this new phenomenon, we conducted 8 case studies within high innovation intensity and ethical sensitivity sector companies (medical engineering and pharmaceuticals). The results were analyzed with qualitative and mixed methods data analysis software Maxqda12, which allowed us to conclude that the implementation of RI in knowledge intensive firms is depended on their overall network, which consists of: 1) external-institutional network (NGOs, stakeholders, ethics committees, etc.), which forces companies to comply with the minimum requirements of the legal environment and societal norms; 2) collaboration network, which is rich in knowledge (i.e. academia, existing and possible consumers, etc.) and provides the technological capabilities (partners, clusters, associations) that are needed by the companies to exploit their innovations. Thus, we argue that the firms' collaboration (knowledge and technology) network is the main force and mediator for the implementation of RI activities in the innovation process, and that network as a platform is the quickest way to disseminate the integration of RI activities into the business practices.

The mediating role of objects in university-industry collaboration

Authors: Esther de Wit-deVries (ESRIG, University of Groningen)  email
Henny van der Windt (University of Groningen)  email

Short Abstract

Objects do not mediate knowledge or goals by themselves. By studying two collaborations we show what practices actors use to establish and change objects' mediating roles over time and how objects increase credibility, salience and legitimacy in university-industry collaborations as a form of RRI.

Long Abstract

Responsible research that is developed in collaboration with industry requires credible science that is salient for the industrial partner and aligns with societal values and business culture. However, university-industry collaborations (UIC) frequently have to deal with tensions between academic credibility and developing salient solutions in the context of application.

Objects have been assigned a mediating role in aligning expertise and goals. However, more is to be discovered regarding how they do so. By combining Cash et al.'s (2012) concepts of salience, credibility and legitimacy with insights regarding the role of different kinds of objects (epistemic, boundary and infrastructural) in cross-team collaboration new insights are gained regarding the mediating role of objects in UIC.

Building on two case studies two contributions are made: First, it is shown how objects can support a legitimate process and increase the salience and credibility of the knowledge that is developed in UIC. Second, the practice to establish the credibility, salience and legitimacy of objects themselves are uncovered. To do so we zoom in on moments where objects are introduced and on incidents where breaches in salience, credibility and legitimacy of objects surface.

Barriers for Responsible Innovation in food companies and the role of intermediaries

Authors: Jilde Garst (Wageningen University)  email
Vincent Blok (Wageningen University)  email
Onno Omta  email
Léon Jansen (Dutch Choices Foundation)  email

Short Abstract

The framework developed in this study is the first step for empirical research on barriers for RI in commercial settings, which is at the moment theoretically underdeveloped, and the intermediary role of third-party certification programme in food innovation for non-communicable disease prevention.

Long Abstract

Increasing production of healthy foods is a proposed strategy for addressing one of the grand challenge of our time: the threat of non-communicable diseases to public health (NCDs, e.g. type 2 diabetes, cardiovascular diseases). To promote production of these foods in the Netherlands, the Choices Foundation was initiated in 2006. By setting standards for healthy foods and certifying these foods with a front-of-pack logo, the Choices Foundation aims to be an intermediary between consumer, academia and food industry. The Choices programme provides an interesting case to investigate if intermediaries can stimulate Responsible Innovation (RI) in commercial settings. Explorative studies have indicated potential barriers for RI in commercial settings, e.g. decrease of competitive advantage. Standards created by an independent intermediary could create the level playing field required for RI. Although Von Schomberg previously indicated such standards fundamental for RI, limited studies have been conducted on this governance mechanism for RI in commercial settings.

In this study, firstly we develop an overview of barriers for RI in commercial settings by integrating RI theory in models for new product development. Secondly, we conduct a literature review about the role of intermediaries in commercial innovation and their influences on barriers for RI. Finally, this theoretical framework will be discussed with actors in the Dutch food industry. The result of this study will provide the foundation for empirical research by giving an overview of a) the barriers for RI in the commercial settings, and b) roles of intermediaries in overcoming these barriers.

Non-Mandatory Ethics Bodies at Austrian Universities. Objectives, Work and Experiences.

Author: Erich Griessler (Institute for Advanced Studies, Vienna)  email

Short Abstract

The paper presents results of an explorative, qualitative study on non-mandatory ethics committees at Austrian universities. It looks at tasks, set-up, modes of operation, experiences and factors that promote or inhibit the work of university ethics committees.

Long Abstract

This paper analyses 9 non-mandatory organizations and sub-units of the Austrian university landscape that deal with research ethics or - some of them, more broadly with ethical questions of research. The paper studies these organizations' tasks, organizational set-ups, modes of operation and the extent to which they are doing well in terms of "managing contestation" and "responsibilisation" of research. Moreover, the paper looks into factors that promote and inhibit their work.

The paper is based on document analysis and nine interviews with chairpersons or senior employees of ethics bodies.

The establishment of non-mandatory ethics bodies in Austria is a recent development which was triggered by pressure from inside the research system (requirement for ethical clearance; growing awareness of ethics in research in parts of the research community; reorganisation of the university system) and outside universities (various public scandals because of suspected or actual scientific misconduct). Analysis of existing non-mandatory ethics bodies in Austria shows the following typology:

• Service bodies based on voluntariness;

• Control bodies;

• Bodies promoting ethical reflection;

• Bodies investigating scientific misconduct.

In the sample, service bodies were most frequent (5 cases), followed by bodies investigating scientific misconduct (2), control bodies and bodies promoting ethical reflection (1 each).

Ethics bodies in Austria today are clearly "responsibilisation in the making". Despite the achievements reported by their chairpersons, it is currently unclear whether they work well in terms of "managing contestation" and "responsibilisation". In order to address these questions, further research into the impact of ethics bodies is necessary.

Ethical review of animal experimentation: '3Rs' as boundary object

Author: Kathleen Job (Cardiff University)  email

Short Abstract

Local ethical review of animal experimentation coordinates responsibilities of researchers and regulators. Ethnographic research reveals mobilisation of the 3Rs construct of Replacement, Reduction & Refinement as a boundary object in the construction of ethical science through this review process.

Long Abstract

This paper demonstrates how the '3Rs' construct is mobilised as a device to establish authority and impart responsibility during the ethical review process for scientific procedures using animals. It draws on empirical ethnographic research combining in-depth semi-structured qualitative interviews with observational studies of the ethical review process in practice over the course of a year. The argument for consideration of the 3Rs as a boundary object is formulated, and contributes to the literature in this field.

The use of non-human animals in scientific procedures is regulated through a system of licensing to establish a framework of responsibility. Applications for project licenses must complete local ethical review, which serves as an intermediary between the scientist as applicant and the Home Office as regulator. The '3Rs' stands for Replacement, Reduction & Refinement. As a concept it provides a tangible basis upon which the ethical review committee can effect change within regulatory constraints, and has become effectively institutionalised in the field of animal research. Specific responsibilities towards the 3Rs are constructed and coordinated through the social enactment of the review process and the moral pluralism of its membership. The 3Rs construct is amenable to be utilised in both technical and ethical discourses to formulate what the applicant must do for the proposed project to be considered sufficiently ethical science. Tactical positioning of the 3Rs construct was observed as a means of framing the responsibilities of the applicant and coordinating the authority of the committee to 'do ethics' in this context.

Intervening, interrogating, and coordinating responsible research and innovation through policy immersion programs for graduate students in the USA and Canada

Authors: Matthew Harsh (Concordia University)  email
Eric Kennedy (Arizona State University)  email

Short Abstract

Through a policy immersion program, participants better understand the complicated sociotechnical factors that make it so difficult to foster innovation that leads to more just and sustainable outcomes. The program also works to overcome those barriers through building capacities and relationships.

Long Abstract

In both the USA and Canada, three of the main methods for integrating broader societal responsibility into research systems include: 1) funding criteria (e.g. broader impacts or knowledge mobilization) 2) specific policy initiatives (e.g. ELSI initiatives) and, 3) explicit STS scholarship (e.g. technology assessment). This paper analyses an attempt to intervene, interrogate and coordinate across these three spheres through a policy immersion training program for gradate students in the sciences and engineering. The program, Science Outside the Lab, has been run for a decade in Washington, DC. It is now being expanded to Canada (Ottawa, ON, and Montreal, QC) in 2016. Through an immersive, experienced-based approach, students explore how societal values shape their own research, and how values and research come together to inform decisions in government. Over a period of one to two weeks, students meet and engage with actors who fund, regulate, shape, critique, publicize, and study science and technology. Based on observational and program evaluation data, we show that all actors involved in the program (students, policy professionals, and STS scholars/organizers) come to better understand the complicated sociotechnical factors that make it so difficult to foster innovation that leads to more just and sustainable outcomes. At the same time, the program works to overcome those barriers through building capacities and relationships. The research thus contributes to STS scholarship on responsible innovation and on interventionist research approaches.

Dissapearing Mangroves: expertise and climate adaptation in Guyana

Author: Sarah Vaughn (Yale School of Forestry and Environmental Studies)  email

Short Abstract

This paper explores what happens to a concept of performativity within contexts of climate adaptation policy. The paper draws on ethnographic research with technoscientific experts affiliated with the Guyana Mangrove Restoration Project (GMRP).

Long Abstract

This paper explores what happens to a concept of performativity within contexts of climate adaptation policy. I argue that experts rely on calculative tools not only to interpret data about climatic risks but to manage the socio-emotive arrangement of expert practice itself. To make this argument, I draw on ethnographic research with technoscientific experts affiliated with the Guyana Mangrove Restoration Project (GMRP). Aimed at modeling the effects of sea-level rise on mangroves, the GMRP requires experts to modify their pre-existing knowledge practices to better respond to conditions that contribute to the vulnerability of mangroves. At the same time, model outputs suggest that no matter their efforts, mangroves will eventually uproot and wash away. More than an intervention to avert climatic risks, the GMRP elicits apprehension amongst experts about their limited abilities to protect mangroves. In doing so, apprehension creates a demand for innovative technical measures, while often reinforcing the authority of those who in advance claim a position of skepticism about such measures. Rethinking the status of expertise under climate adaptation, this article moves beyond the constrained logic of intervening that informs many ethnographic studies of performativity. It demonstrates that apprehension stands-in as a generative component of climate adaptation policy, ordering both the material and socio-emotive worlds of experts.

Boundary Organizations and the Coordination of Responsibility. The case of the Office of Technology Assessment at the German Parliament

Author: Simone Arnaldi (University of Padua)  email

Short Abstract

Based on a case study from Germany, the presentation explores the role of Technology Assessment bodies in shaping the responsible governance of science and technology across science and policy making. The notion of boundary organization is applied to explore these coordination mechanisms.

Long Abstract

The recent academic and policy debate on responsibility in science and technology governance has focused primarily either on identifying a prescriptive substantive and/or procedural framework for science, technology and innovation to be responsible, or on analysing the contingent configurations of responsibility in concrete institutional and policy settings. In this latter case, literature has generally studied the different sites and arenas where responsibility is framed (e.g. research laboratories, media, policy making) as separate, missing to acknowledge that responsible governance arrangements emerge across different domains as a result of their coordination.

The Science Advisory System (SAS) plays a crucially important role in these coordination processes. Among the different SAS bodies, Technology Assessment (TA) institutions are a privileged vantage point to examine how responsibility is implemented and steered across the two domains of science and policy.

Acknowledging this importance, the paper presents the experience of the German Parliamentary Technology Assessment (pTA) Office as a case study. The analysis relies on the notion of boundary organization to explore how the pTA Office contributes to (re-)formulate, transform, and coordinate responsibility across science, policy and law-making in Germany.

Science museums as suitable agoras for experimenting new public engagement practices in biology innovations in the light of RRI: the example of synthetic biology workshop at MUSE

Authors: Lucia Martinelli (Museo delle Scienze (MUSE))  email
Federico Neresini (Universita degli studi Padova)  email
Patrizia Famà (MUSE - Science Museum of Trento)  email

Short Abstract

How can science museums launch effective processes of public engagement in the light of RRI? We report the concept of an interactive workshop on socio-scientific issues related to Synthetic Biology applications.

Long Abstract

In its mission of science museum of modern conception, challenge of MUSE (Trento, Italy) is to act as modern agora where the various actors of science innovations are stimulated to come together to build up scientific knowledge. As part of the 7th FP UE project SYNENERGENE (, aimed at developing RRI practices in synthetic biology (synbio), we experimented a new public engagement activity to demonstrate how vanillin, a commonly used flavor, is industrially produced with this technology. Our format is a workshop where participants may practically learn how vanillin is produced with both 'natural' and synthetic biology strategies. The final goal is to let MUSE's visitors experiment different visions of the various actors involved in a controversial technology. To do this, three videos are presented, respectively showing the perspectives of the industry producing synbio vanillin, of an academic scientist developing synbio research, and of NGOs opposing synbio vanillin. Participants are encouraged to express their willingness to invest public support in synthetic biology research and eventually to choose the field among health, agriculture and environment. Crucial phase is participants' evaluation of the activity and their understanding of the key messages delivered with the workshop, by means of an ad hoc questionnaire. Answers are compared with the results of questionnaires delivered to control MUSE's visitors, not taking part to the workshop, which gave interesting information about knowledge and opinions on synthetic biology in lay-citizens.

This track is closed to new paper proposals.