Enacting responsibility: RRI and the re-ordering of science-society relations in practice
Location 129
Date and Start Time 02 September, 2016 at 16:00
Sessions 5


  • Heidrun Åm (Norwegian Uni. of Science and Technology ) email
  • Fern Wickson (GenØk Centre for Biosafety) email
  • Gisle Solbu (Norwegian University of Science and Technology) email
  • Ana Delgado (University of Oslo) email
  • Knut H Sørensen (Norwegian Univ. of Science and Technology) email

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Short Abstract

The need to embed responsibility into scientific R&D practices has become a key notion within governance discourses and funding programmes. This track invites papers that analyse the multiple ways in which these ideas and policies are enacted in the everyday practices of scientists.

Long Abstract

A variety of approaches are currently being pursued as a means for mediating the relations between science as society towards what is sometimes described as a new 'social contract'. For instance, in Europe there is a current policy commitment to advancing RRI (Responsible Research and Innovation), which is formulated as a 'cross cutting principle' in the Horizon 2020 funding programme.

What are the tangible effects of these attempts to encourage a new relationship between science and society? Can we observe a re-ordering of science and society relations in research practices? What shape do these new relations take? How do scientists enact responsibility demands? Which new assemblages are emerging?

A specific aim of this track is to address how responsibility is enacted in diverse contexts of action. We presume that in processes of translation, ideas of responsibility are reassembled and mediated through contexts such as the 'market university' or demands for excellence. The ways in which new science governance demands translate into the everyday life work of scientists in their offices and laboratories might be multiple. Some scientists may enact responsibility as 'crafting the group' and caring for it. In other instances, responsibility might be performed as practices of 'safety' or to 'open up science' through practices of sharing. Also, social scientists are involved in such translations, contributing to the shaping of new techno-political relations.

In sum, the track shall gather research on the diverse ways how scientists enact responsibility and thus produce knowledge on conditions for re-ordering science-society relations in practice.

SESSIONS: 5/5/5/4/3

This track is closed to new paper proposals.


Narrative infrastructures for addressing and silencing responsibility in Academic Practice

Authors: Ulrike Felt (University of Vienna)  email
Lisa Sigl (University of Vienna)  email
Maximilian Fochler (University of Vienna)  email

Short Abstract

How does the buzzword “responsible research and innovation” enter researchers’ practices? We develop the notion of narrative infrastructures to understand how Austrian life scientists address and silence responsibility in speaking about their practice.

Long Abstract

Does the buzzword "responsible research and innovation" actually manage to enter researchers' practices? And if so, does it offer them a meaningful way to conceptualize being responsible, and how does it interact with other ways of framing responsibility?

We will use a narrative approach to better grasp how researchers (can) make sense of this discursive move and when and how they (can) turn it into practice. We see narratives not only as a way of sharing meaning in practice, but also as participating in the constitution of a broader sense of direction and purpose, of reconfiguring individual and institutional identities, and of enabling and constraining researchers' actions.

Our paper uses interviews and discussions with researchers from the life sciences in Austria as empirical basis. We will analyse how researchers address or silence responsibility, and which narrative infrastructures they draw on in doing so. The notion of infrastructure alerts us not only to the multiple levels and forms of narratives inherent to practices, but points to their interaction and to the effects of stabilisation. Is there a coherent "narrative infrastructure of responsibility" produced and circulated by policy makers, media, institutional actors and researchers alike, in which values and imaginaries of good research and its relation to society can circulate? Or do researchers draw on different narrative resources in addressing or silencing responsibility? .

This talk is prepared in the framework of a newly founded Research Platform "Responsible Research and Innovation in Academic Practice" at the University of Vienna.

Responsible Research is not Good Science: Conceptual, cultural and institutional barriers to enactment

Authors: Fern Wickson (GenØk Centre for Biosafety)  email
Lilian Van Hove (GenØk)  email

Short Abstract

Presenting a study across five nanosafety laboratories on how responsibility was integrated into research practices, this paper describes a significant tension between ideas of responsible research and understandings of good science, with several cultural and institutional barriers to enactment.

Long Abstract

The concept of 'responsible innovation' or 'responsible research and innovation' (RRI) is rapidly gaining currency in both European policy discourse and STS scholarship on the governance of new and emerging technologies. This rising emphasis on having technoscientific innovation develop ' responsibly' is arguably the latest manifestation of a longer historical trend to reimagine and enact the relationship between science and society towards more ethically sound, socially robust, and broadly participatory forms. An emphasis on the need for 'responsible' development has been particularly prominent in nanoscale sciences and technologies. In this paper we present results of a study that combined laboratory ethnographies with research group dialogue sessions

across five different Scandinavian nanosafety laboratories to investigate how responsibility both could be and was being integrated into research practices. One of the key findings of the work is that although researchers could recognise the value and importance of RRI as currently being defined by STS scholars and policy-makers, they saw several elements of it as being in tension with what they identified as the characteristics of good science. Discussions on this tension highlighted a range of significant conceptual, cultural and institutional barriers to the integration of RRI into the daily practice of nanosafety scientists. Having described these findings, the paper will conclude by arguing that much of the current focus within RRI on the role of individual scientists needs to be supplemented by enhanced attention to the cultural and institutional changes required if RRI is to be successfully enacted in practice.

Responsible Research and Innovation (RRI) as decentered governance: Practices of governance and practices of freedom in researchers' daily lives

Author: Heidrun Åm (Norwegian Uni. of Science and Technology )  email

Short Abstract

How do scientists enact RRI? We studied communities in bio- and nanotechnology in Norway required to integrate RRI in grant proposals, inquiring how they manage this. We argue that the current way of demanding RRI estranges scientists and potentially produces resistance towards enacting RRI.

Long Abstract

Recent developments in science governance, such as Responsible Research and Innovation (RRI), represent increased pressure on scientists to internalise responsibility in research and development. In this respect, RRI fits general developments regarding decentred governance and governance-driven democratization (Warren 2009) because RRI encourages the formation of networks through interdisciplinary cooperation and pursues active citizenship through public engagement. Also, it aims to steer knowledge production in accordance with normative values.

But the question emerges how those subjected to these governance demands, namely scientists, translate them. Put differently, how do scientists interpret and enact RRI? To answer this question, we analyse a set of research communities in the bio- and nanotechnology field in Norway. Norway is an interesting case because the Research Council of Norway has been very outspoken in demanding RRI as an integral part of each research proposal within nano- and biotechnology.

Based on 37 interviews, this paper studies scientists' interpretations of and practices with respect to RRI. To be subjected to a kind of RRI regime does not result in scientists accepting and aligning with such responsibility demands. Drawing on the work of James Tully (2008), we identify what practices of freedom follow the practices of governance. We argue that the current way of doing RRI, by requiring that such practices shall be an integral element of grant proposals while the concept itself has not been clearly defined, risks to estrange scientists. In turn, we see this as stimulating resistance to a productive engagement with the concerns underlying the current RRI discourse.

Imagining publics, constructing responsibility. Scientists navigating Responsible Research and Innovation

Authors: Gisle Solbu (Norwegian University of Science and Technology)  email
Heidrun Åm (Norwegian Uni. of Science and Technology )  email
Knut H Sørensen (Norwegian Univ. of Science and Technology)  email

Short Abstract

The paper analyses how bio- and nanotechnology scientists perceive the general public’s perceptions of their research and related social and ethical challenges, and how the scientists think about their responsibility when conducting research.

Long Abstract

The concept Responsible Research and Innovation (RRI) in European science policy responds to public outcries regarding technoscientific issues like mad cow disease and GMO. More generally, controversial technoscientific developments are seen to require reconsideration of science society relations. Consequently, public engagement emerges as a requirement, reflecting policymakers' belief that public engagement help developing social consensus to avoid skepticism.

This reflects a construction of the general public as fearful of and lacking knowledge about technoscience. This "deficit model" is also observed among scientists. However, recent research has shown considerable diversity with respect to scientists' imagined publics, and that these constructions affect the way scientists enact requirements about responsibility and accountability.

We investigate how scientists working in the fields of bio- and nanotechnology describe their perception of the general public, including particular publics, and how this relates to the scientists' understanding what it means for them to be responsible and accountable. For example, are scientists believing in the deficit model more interested in enacting responsibility by interacting with the public than scientists with more positive ideas about the public?

The paper is based on interviews with scientists in bio- and nanotechnology. The analysis explores interviewees' accounts of their main ethical and social concerns as scientists, and how they think about the public's concerns. Findings indicate considerable diversity, suggesting that the relationship between scientists and the public is more complex than the established policy view and observations in previous research. This poses new challenges for the implementation of responsible research and innovation measures.

Lessons learned: Responsible Research and Innovation at the Lab Floor

Authors: Verena Stimberg (University of Twente)  email
Kornelia Konrad (University of Twente)  email
Bart Walhout  email
Haico te Kulve  email

Short Abstract

The integration of RRI at the lab floor has been practiced in the frame of the Dutch research program NanoNextNL. We present our experiences from this program, the development of a toolbox that supports researchers to consider societal aspects, and the lessons learned from its practical application.

Long Abstract

In the Dutch nanotechnology research and innovation program NanoNextNL Responsible Research and Innovation is integrated in the form of RATA (Risk Analysis and Technology Assessment) - as a separate research theme and as an obligation for its participants to consider risks and societal dimensions of their research. However, technical PhD students are challenged by the limited time for such non-core activities, and the gap between the world of natural and social sciences. Therefore, we created a 'toolbox' that examines, describes, and categorizes various tools described in the literature and developed in the field of (Constructive) Technology Assessment and beyond, taking into account practical considerations of technical researchers. As part of the RATA obligation, we supported PhD students to apply some of these tools to their research projects enabling them to explore interesting research questions and possible applications in their project, or to consider socio-technical aspects of implementing a new technology. We are currently further applying these tools across different levels, from PhDs to seniors and groups of researchers, and to different fields such as health, electronics and energy.

We present our experiences with the RATA program in general, and more specifically, our lessons learned from various RATA activities and the application of our toolbox. Finally, we conclude with suggestions how such activities can be further implemented at the lab floor - towards mainstreaming of Responsible Research and Innovation.

Performing responsibility in the everyday practice of synthetic biology research

Author: Susan Molyneux-Hodgson (University of Exeter)  email

Short Abstract

The ways in which ‘responsibility’ was distributed across people and things, in the design, conduct and completion of a funded project is explored. The notion of ‘care’ is used to illustrate how we might gain an understanding of RRI in practice.

Long Abstract

Resources are pouring into the development of synthetic biology as a new field in the UK. A Roadmap has been produced and refreshed, and a research and commercialisation trajectory laid out for the new field to travel. Yet, progress in scientific practice and potential products is lagging behind the policy and rhetoric of the fabulous futures synthetic biology is intended to make. Understanding the mundane and everyday world of practice in synthetic biology is therefore imperative, particularly as the sense of newness presented by the field leaves open greater possibilities for multiple actors to influence and shape the field towards a variety of ends. It is within this context of openness - the yet-to-be decided directions of everyday synthetic biology work - that we can find a space for reflecting on notions of responsibility.

The author was recruited into a collaborative research endeavour with a remit to assess the 'social feasibility' of a synthetic biology project, alongside others conducting assessments of the 'technical feasibility' of the work. This paper gives an analysis of that project, which aimed to address water industry challenges, and that involved different kinds of academic and industrial engineers alongside sociologists. Specifically, I will describe how notions of responsibility played out across people and things, from the early-stage design of the project to its eventual completion. I explore how we might elaborate some of the potential offered by the rhetoric of RRI and will reflect on the everyday performance of 'care' as a crucial motif.

Wives of Synthetic Biology: Social Scientists in an Emerging Field

Author: Andrew Balmer (University of Manchester )  email

Short Abstract

How social scientists negotiate roles within synthetic biology research projects shapes the enactment of responsibility in this field. I consider several ways in which we adopt the role of ‘wife’ within synthetic biology and examine how responsibility for implementing RRI practices is distributed.

Long Abstract

Sociologists of science have themselves played a significant role in the adoption of 'responsible research and innovation' (RRI) as a discourse through which to encourage synthetic biology research projects in the UK to embed social scientists. The result is that RRI increasingly dominates as the ethical framework through which our presence must continually be justified. How we negotiate our roles in this mess of social, political, industrial, technical and material relations, and with what outcomes, is important to the enactment of the field, or not, as a responsible technoscience within governance, university and public engagement practices. My everyday work of managing collaborative relations in an RRI team, embedded in a synthetic biology research centre, forms one empirical basis for this paper, which I supplement with observations of and reports on the experiences of several colleagues in similar research centres in the UK. After briefly outlining some of the existing research on the roles of social scientists in synthetic biology, I develop this literature by describing several ways in which we have come to inhabit the role of 'wife'. I show how the relations assembled in the field help to construct particular forms of responsibility and close-down other possibilities.

'Sociotechnical Imaginaries of 'bottom up' synthetic biology: biocontainment as promise'

Author: Alberto Aparicio (University College London)  email

Short Abstract

Bottom up synthetic biology has sought to incorporate built-in safety features in genetically modified micro-organisms (GMMOs), which prompts to ask through the lens sociotechnical imaginaries, how this debate has remained an object of contestation, embedding governance ideals in biological systems.

Long Abstract

Recent developments in synthetic biology have been accompanied of 'bottom up' approaches that aim to build 'new to nature' forms of nucleic acids and proteins and incorporate them into living systems. Promises of building biosafe technologies have been made, based on the impossibility of transferring genetic material to other organisms and controlling the proliferation of genetically modified microorganisms (GMMOs). However, the safety and release into the environment of GMMOs has been an object of contestation since the 1970s, and pioneers of synthetic biology make an effort to promote its importance, whereas this appears to be less of a concern in other fields, such as the genetic engineering of mosquitoes (i.e. gene drives) to tackle tropical diseases. This paper seeks to make sense of 'biocontainment' as a promise of synthetic biology. I question the concern about the safety of GMMOs, and given the notion of safely releasing GMMOs into the field, how biotechnological applications may be reshaped. These questions are explored with the support of interviews with synthetic biology stakeholders, as well as participant observation in a synthetic biology laboratory. The analysis draws from the literature on sociology expectations, as well as 'sociotechnical imaginaries' (Jasanoff & Kim 2009) —understood as collectively imagined, visions of 'desirable futures' that guide the implementation of science and technology projects—. An imaginary of built-in safe GMMOs suggests not only efforts of scientists to preserve their autonomy and self-governance embedded in the objects they construct, but also brings novel applications and business model possibilities to biotechnology.

Enacting responsibility - challenges in science training

Author: Maria Strecht Almeida (Universidade do Porto)  email

Short Abstract

“Science with society” is a key notion in current scientific agenda expressing both coproduction of knowledge and responsibility. The present paper focus on exploring these issues within undergraduate training and on the context of science training as major in that regard.

Long Abstract

The awareness of societal challenges, the ability to think about science in the broader context of society as well as the involvement in multidisciplinary collaborations are part of the idea of responsible research. The present paper explores this idea in the context of science training. It takes as starting point the case of (undergraduate) biochemistry education and explores the place of societal issues and of the science-society dialogue within training in the life sciences. In this purpose, I will argue the relevance of (briefly) presenting the social sciences and the humanities as research to students in this other field, emphasizing their specific and distinct methodologies. In the other way round, my analysis will also consider the ways in which the life sciences can be presented to students in the social sciences and the humanities. Creating space for this kind of analysis in training - that might also occur in course units dedicated to science-society relations gathering students from different disciplinary backgrounds - may be an adequate approach towards fostering future multidisciplinary collaborative work, the enactment of responsibility and the practice of "science with society".

From the Lab to the City: Exploring Socio-Technical Integration Research within Broader Landscapes

Authors: Erik Fisher (Arizona State University)  email
Jennifer Richter (ASU)  email
Thaddeus Miller (Portland State University)  email
Abraham Tidwell  email

Short Abstract

The STIR Cities project comparatively investigates the development of smart energy systems beyond the lab, how they are imagined to create social and technological order, and whether engagements with diverse technical experts foster reflexive learning and deliberation over broader emerging contexts.

Long Abstract

The STIR project coordinated a series of intervention-oriented laboratory engagement studies that suggest social science engagements can enhance both care and creativity within science and engineering research practices. The idea of responsible innovation, however, implicates a diversity of research and innovation contexts that extend beyond the academic laboratory; it also implies that interventions at the level of expert practices be seen from the standpoint of broader socio-political landscapes. Accordingly, the STIR Cities project explores the possibility and utility of social science engagements within two urban settings. In an attempt to methodologically expand and interpretively deepen the STIR approach, we plan to comparatively investigate how "smart" energy systems are being developed and deployed in Phoenix, Arizona and Portland, Oregon; how they are being imagined to meet and create desirable forms of social and technological order; and the extent to which our engagements with diverse technical experts foster reflexive learning and deliberation over broader emerging forms of social and technological order. We thus explore the relationship between sociotechnical imaginaries - collectively imagined forms of social life that are "almost always imbued with implicit understandings of what is good or desirable in the social world writ large"; technological system design, understood as situated performance of these imaginaries; and STIR expert engagement studies with a distributed network of technical experts constructing smart energy systems in two culturally and geographically different urban centers. This talk will provide an overview of the project and present the preliminary findings of our empirical and theoretical work.

Biogas plants in rural India: responsible disruption

Author: Govert Valkenburg (NTNU Norwegian University of Science and Technology)  email

Short Abstract

In conventional rice production, rice straw is left over as a by-product. This rice straw is usually burnt, which produces toxic smoke and wastes biomass. We investigate how straw can alternatively be made into biogas while preserving the social structures of rice-producing communities.

Long Abstract

In conventional rice production, rice straw is left over as a by-product. This rice straw is usually burnt, producing toxic smoke and wasting an energy-rich form of biomass. An alternative use of the rice straw would be its processing into biogas. While fermentation processes have been proven to work in the laboratory, some additional steps are to be made for the process to be viable at the level of local communities where the production of rice takes place. We discuss a feasibility study of how such an implementation could be made 'socially responsible'. The paradox observed is that on the one hand it needs to be recognized that local communities have some intrinsic value that merits preservation, while on the other hand an innovation like this by definition entails disruptions of some sort and hence the modification of local communities in some sense. This reflects a tension that at a more abstract level informs the idea of responsible innovation, which as a programme underlies several current funding schemes: the reflexivity of innovations that potentially alter the normative frameworks by which they are themselves to be evaluated. We propose a framework that helps identify and evaluate the mechanisms that provide stability as well as mechanisms that allow for change, thus allowing a reflexive assessment of the change itself.

Responsible Innovation in an Indigenous Context: Problems, Prospects, Hopes

Authors: Blagovesta Nikolova (University of Namur)  email
Philippe Goujon (university of Namur)  email

Short Abstract

The presentation will address the problem of creating the conditions for reflexive and responsible governance of technology and innovation in indigenous contexts. It will share the results from a recent work with the Long Lamai community in Borneo, Malaysia.

Long Abstract

The presentation will focus on the problems, prospects and hopes for responsible innovation in a specific cultural context, very different from the European in which the concept of RRI has emerged. It will present the results from a recent work with the Long Lamai community in Borneo, Malaysia. It will address the problem of creating the conditions for reflexive and responsible governance of technology and innovation with and for the indigenous community. It will explore issues such as: how to go beyond the existing "ICT for development" approach; how to complement the efforts of local promoters of modernization (government, universities) with a more reflexive stance on their activities; and most importantly, how in the interaction with the indigenous community to elaborate the means and tools for them to be able to address their own developmental needs. Crucial aspect of this process is the reordering of the relations with the indigenous people so that they do not absorb unquestionably any techno-based model of development but be empowered to re-invent their own alternative of modernity through meaningful participation. Thus they could "steer" technology and innovation in preserving and protecting their unique traditions, customs, knowledge and lives in a highly aggressive and penetrating market environment, which very quickly dissolves values, virtues, cultures and gradually destroys their natural home - the jungle. A responsible innovation approach could help them in finding the means to shape their future in connection with the past and "indigenize" the inevitable process of modernization.

The discourse of innovative progress and traditional knowledge. Facing consequences in fisheries management

Authors: Rodrigo Martínez-Novo, Paloma Herrera Racionero, Emmánuel (Universidad Politécnica de Valencia)  email
Paloma Herrera-Racionero (Universidad Politécnica de Valencia)  email
Emmánuel Lizcano (Universidad Naconal de Educación a Distancia)  email

Short Abstract

Our study analyzes the discourse of actors linked to innovation in aquaculture and local fishing, in order to assess the ways they have to assume the consequences of their activity. As we will see, the very different forms of responsibility between them could be an important blind spot of fisheries policies

Long Abstract

Innovation has become a concept widely used and extended in the discourse of modern societies (Godin 2008). In the specific field of marine affairs, however, It draws attention to the unequal relationship that it has with two very high profile international phenomena: aquaculture and coastal fisheries. As we will discuss in our case study focused on the region of Valencia, this difference could also be closely related, with the different way the actors of both activities have to take responsibility for the consequences they produce. Through a qualitative approach to their discourses and guided by various studies of STS (Stilgoe, Owen & Macnaghten 2013; Von Schomberg 2013) and sociology of science (Lizcano 2009, Wynne 2002), we find that those aquaculture, holders of a scientific techno knowledge in which they often speaks of innovation, link these consequences to the abstract idea of human progress (massive responsibility). Inshore fishermen, owners of local traditional knowledge in which the word innovation is not mentioned, enroll the effects of their practices in the game of specific power relations which involves their daily activity (collective responsibility). The thin line that separates them -on either position- from making irresponsible practices, teaches us the difficulties to find common solutions in the field of social and environmental sustainability of the coastal ecosystem

Local controversies on responsible mining: polarization, technological change and commitments

Author: Ernesto Andrade-Sastoque (University of Twente)  email

Short Abstract

The paper describes the texture of a local controversy in Latin-America where meanings of responsible mining (RM) as an alternative of sustainable development (SD) are questioned. The analysis enable to understand problems, advantages and opportunities of the Responsible Mining.

Long Abstract

As a result of a two-year empirical research, this paper describes the texture of a local controversy in Latin-America where meanings of responsible mining (RM) as an alternative of sustainable development (SD) are questioned. This description is operationalized by an explanatory matrix which permits to understand the dispute around values of science, technology and innovation (STI), the predominant epistemologies of social relevant groups, notions of sustainability and responsibility, deliberation practices among other things; and how those elements serve to de/stabilize the meanings of RM. The analysis is based on the conceptualization of two senses for RM -a functional and a non-functional one. The functional sense of the RM as an alternative of SD is given by the promise of sustainable economic growth, the appearance that STI is neutrally applied, and the appropriation of technical narratives about mining technologies. On the other hand, the non-functional sense of RM as an alternative of SD, is given by the valuation of STI as a complementary knowledge, broad deliberative practices in the public arenas, the circulation of technical and political communication materials, and the promotion of mechanisms for citizen participation. In conclusion, it is possible to understand that the di/stabilization of dynamics of RM represents a social polarization ('pro-mining' and 'anti-mining' people), but it also enables some inclusive practices, low-environmental-impact technological developments which could be widely used in geological exploration activities; and new social, environmental and political engagements assumed by technologists and scientist.

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Stakeholder participation in the context of science-based consumer protection

Authors: Leonie Dendler (Federal Institute for Risk Assessment)  email

Short Abstract

More participation is a core demand within the responsible science debate. Through structured review of the stakeholder management literature this paper identifies criteria for the successful enactment of such demands and explores their practical resonance within science-based consumer protection.

Long Abstract

Across societal discourses more participatory knowledge production has been established as one of the core pillars of responsible science. Many argue this also extends to public science organisations, such as the German Federal Institute for Risk Assessment (BfR), with the statutory task to conduct independent risk assessment for consumer health protection. Such demands build on longstanding calls for more public participation in governance and societal processes at large, which find their roots in normative and strategic lines of argumentation. While the former tend to refer to democratic values, in particular notions of deliberation, the latter point to strategic goals, such as the building of trust, reputation and societal support including access to wider (knowledge) resources. Both sets of arguments are well established within and beyond the STS, political science or stakeholder management literature. What is less well established is how societal participation should be enacted, in other words what criteria need to be met in practice in order to achieve normative and strategic goals. This study aims to address this gap through a twofold process. Firstly, criteria for successful participation are identified based on a structured review of the stakeholder management literature. Secondly, the paper explores the empirical resonance of these criteria within the field of science based consumer protection through qualitative interviews with BfR employees and stakeholders. As such it makes not only a scientific contribution to the stakeholder management and wider participation literature but also starts a debate on practical demands on the enactment of more participatory knowledge production.

Lost in translation? Stakeholder engagement practices in international projects

Author: Ana Delicado (Lisbon University)  email

Short Abstract

Stakeholder engagement is one of the fundamental dimensions of RRI. This presentation aims to explore the benefits and pitfalls (and local strategies of resistance and adaptation) of implementing participation and consultation tools in different countries within international projects.

Long Abstract

The "dialogical" or "participatory turn" in science precedes the emergence of the RRI concept. As the "deficit model" in science communication fell out of favour, a constellation of new practices of engaging the public in scientific discussions started to arise: consensus conferences, citizen jury, stakeholder consultations, to name just a few. A veritable industry of participatory methods has developed.

The inclusion of stakeholder engagement in the concept of RRI as defined by the European Commission is fundamentally a political recognition of the trend started in the STS field that promises to solve the long standing problem of the social acceptance of science and technology. It has become quasi-mandatory for project proposals to include at some point the participation of citizens. Conversely, whole projects have been almost solely devoted to citizen engagement in different S&T issues.

Consultation exercises that span different countries, sometimes even simultaneously, are increasingly common. One of the leading examples is the World Wide Views methodology. These procedures allow varying degrees of freedom to national teams, but the aim of data comparison often restricts this flexibility. Therefore, it begs to ask how these "imported" models of participation actually work in different local settings.

This presentation aims to explore the benefits and pitfalls of implementing participation and consultation tools developed in a different context, as well as the resistance and adaptation strategies that emerge. It is based on direct observation of consultation exercises and interviews with coordinators and team members of international projects in Portugal.

Is the quest for sound evidence indirectly facilitating science communication?

Authors: Monica Racovita (Alpen Adria University)  email
Sandra Karner (Alpen-Adria Universitaet )  email
Armin Spoek (Alpen-Adria Universitaet Klagenfurt-Wien Graz / IFZ Inter-University Research Centre)  email

Short Abstract

This paper explores the relevance of the systematic review, an evidence synthesizing and appraising methodology, as an indirect science communication tool. It further analyses how the methodology relates to and combines elements of both the deficit model and dialogue-oriented approaches.

Long Abstract

A strong focus on sound scientific data and legitimate expertise are central for the deficit model. Within it scientific evidence is to inform, educate, and even settle controversies. Only certain actors have the legitimacy of undertaking this action: the experts. Yet with newer models of science communication, knowledge transfer done by traditional experts takes a backseat to participatory practices effectively moving science communication away from a one-way endeavor and questioning the understanding of knowledge and experts in the process. This does not necessarily imply a complete rejection of the main features of the deficit model. After all, a two-way communication strategy does include delivering solid scientific evidence and filling at least some knowledge gaps, as well as relying on traditional scientific expertise. Moreover, more recent science communication tools and approaches came to recognize and mix the strengths of both the deficit model and dialogue-oriented approaches.

The systematic review (SR) methodology was not devised as a science communication tool. It was meant to improve the quality of scientific evidence as free of bias as possible. The methodology also includes participatory elements in the upstream engagement of stakeholders, utilizing non-peer reviewed sources, and providing a transparent process, open for further improvement.

This paper explores the relevance of the SR methodology as an indirect science communication tool drawing on its use in a contested scientific field, the genetically modified organisms' impact assessment. Further, it analyses how the methodology relates to and combines elements of both the deficit and dialogue-oriented approaches to science communication.

Re-distributing Responsibility in the Participatory Production and Circulation of Anticipatory Knowledge

Author: Thomas Völker (Joint Research Centre of the European Commission)  email

Short Abstract

Against the background of debates about ‘care-logics’ and ‘responsible research and innovation’ this talk focuses on an Austrian sustainability research funding program and asks how the envisioned changes in science-society relations are enacted in concrete transdisciplinary research practices.

Long Abstract

Over the past decades we witnessed a growing concern with changing modes of knowledge production and numerous debates have directed attention to changing relations between science and society. Most recently these questions have been addressed in discussions about 'care-logics' and 'responsible research and innovation'. This recent shift adds yet another layer to discussions about science-society relations by calling for the creation of spaces that allow for more responsive science-society engagements.

Against this background my presentation focuses on the Austrian sustainability research funding program proVISION , which explicitly required projects to apply transdisciplinary research methods in order to 'make knowledge available' and foster a 'new science culture'. Thus this program can be understood as an attempt to create spaces of collective experimentation.

The talk will first describe the program's imagination of re-ordering science-society relations and trace the development of this imagination in Austrian sustainability research. In the second and main part of the talk I will focus on concrete research practices and ask how the envisioned re-distribution of responsibility is enacted by researchers and their collaborators. By describing particular instances of transdisciplinary collaboration I will show how multiple responsibilities emerge together with different forms participation, subject positions and futures. The talk will conclude by directing attention to various tensions that become visible in these collaborations when attempts of long-time engagement and societal relevance clash with ideas of scientific excellence.

"Responsible Research and Innovation" as a new paradigm for distributing responsibilities between science and society

Author: Guido Gorgoni (University of Padua)  email

Short Abstract

RRI aims at overcoming the traditional forms of responsibilitiy such as liability or compensation, aiming at steering the innovation process in a participative manner by constructing responsibility as a shared process between innovators and societal stakeholders.

Long Abstract

RRI deals with situations in which a) knowledge is uncertain at epistemic level and b) consent is contested at the social level, advocating innovators' early commitment towards the achievement of common societal values and goals, by voluntarily engaging their responsibility for the broad environmental and societal outcomes of their action already at an early stage, going beyond the strict limits of what is mandated by the law.

RRI claims actors' reciprocal responsibilisation where, unlike the logic of liability or accountability, responsibility has to be intended in terms of a voluntary commitment (responsiveness), which implies the use of non-legal self-regulatory instruments, (ranging from codes of conduct, guidelines and technical standards, to reporting schemes, audits and similar), as they could grant participation and power sharing between those whose activities are to be (self-)regulated and the stakeholders better than traditional forms of regulation.

This paper wants to contribute to a better understanding of the articulation between the different dimensions of responsibility and its implications, as there is a structural tension within RRI between the individual commitment to responsibility, in one side, and the promotion of collective values and rights, so that it is crucial to sketch out what are the normative implications of RRI model and the "normative anchor points" of RRI practices.

Integrated Social Science as Responsible Innovation: comparing Australian and European approaches

Author: Declan Kuch (University of New South Wales)  email

Short Abstract

How is social science considered in the innovation policies of Australia and the EU? This paper considers how social science can promote innovations that respond to social needs through four modes: ownership, alliance building, deliberation, and contemplation.

Long Abstract

Governing agencies in many advanced countries have responded to recent health and environmental controversies by calling for the integration of social scientists into a variety of scientific and technical research settings. Often, these integrated projects have lead to a frustration that "too many in the physical and life sciences dismiss social sciences as having a 'service' role, being allowed to observe what they do but not disturb it" (Viseu 2015). This paper contributes to 'post-ELSI' (Rabinow and Bennett 2012) discussions of public participation (Chilvers and Kearnes 2015) in two ways. First, I consider the roll of social science in innovation policies of Australia and the EU. I argue the Sept 2015 rollout of a 'National Innovation and Science Agenda' in Australia lacks any reference to social use, values or needs, instead promoting the privatisation of knowledge. This suggests an intensification of 'venture science' in which economic value and scientific facts are coproduced (Rajan 2006). Secondly, the paper then examines lessons from the EU, included the RRI framework, to consider ways social science can capitalise on its integrated, if subordinated, 'care' role (Martin, Myers et al. 2015) to promote innovations that respond to social needs in new ways. The paper uses practical examples to interrogate four interacting modes of responsibility across European and Australian institutions: ownership, alliance building, deliberation, and contemplation. These four axes beg the question of how integrated social science might be subject to RRI in addition to being an agent of democratisation or beacon of public values.

Ontological politics and responsible research and innovation (RRI)

Author: Ivan da Costa Marques (Universidade Federal do Rio de Janeiro)  email

Short Abstract

In January 2016, Brazil passed a new law that resulted from four years of negotiations involving the academic and business sectors to enhance scientific research and innovation in the country. An analysis of this law highlights epistemic and ontological conditionings and obstacles to practice RRI.

Long Abstract

In January 2016, Brazil passed a new law seeking to enhance research activities in the country. According to congressmen and the Brazilian Society for the Progress of Science, the text resulted from "four years of negotiations involving the academic and business sectors". Scientists tended to praise the new law, while it called for precaution in the humanities and social sciences milieu. This work presents an analysis of the more prominent features of the new law from an ontological viewpoint. The analysis highlights the tensions and contradictions that show up in setting the desirable conditions for the construction of scientific knowledge in different modes of existence. For consolidated research groups, the law cleans up the area for their work by eliminating bureaucratic hurdles in their way. For those who are more prone to contest the neutrality and universality of modern sciences and technologies, the new law continues to fall prey of a modern ontology that presents readymade research objects while the constellation of (heterogeneous) elements that constitutes these research objects remain hidden in, so to speak, ontological black boxes. Practicing "responsible research and innovation" requires the enactment of politics on the ontological level, that is, taking up the cosmopolitical discussion about which entities (objects and subjects) will be part of the world in agreed upon modes of existence. If RRI is to be taken seriously, given the planetary limitation of resources, the discussion of such laws as the one passed in Brazil should explicitly address the problem of (scientific?) knowledge construction in the encounter and distribution of different modes of existence.

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