Can RRI do the trick?


The EuroScience Open Forum (ESOF) was hosted this year by Manchester (UK), from 24 to 27 July 2016. One of the five main topics was RRI[1]. This press release presents a rapid overview of ESOF and more specifically the outcomes of one session which featured six EU-funded RRI projects.

ProGRreSS (PROmoting Global REsponsible research and Social and Scientific Innovation), Responsibility (Global Model and Observatory for International Responsible Research and Innovation Coordination) , Responsible industry, ResAGorA (Governance framework for Responsible Research and Innovation), Great (Governance for responsible innovation), and RRI tools co-organised a session to jointly demonstrate RRI definitions in different cultures of the world and to show tangible results of their projects.

Developments in science come along with promises for progress but also with concerns about the future. The recent Madelin Report on innovation [2] notes that while two out of three people see technology driving growth, two out of three doubt that technology helps people or the planet. These figures illustrate that science seems to be both part of the problem and the solution. This illustrates the need for responsible innovation. RRI is meant to make science more responsible towards societial dimensions. It does not mean that all science, research and innovation up until now was irresponsible but highlights the need for stronger citizen engagement in science in terms of topics (e.g. societal challenges), methodologies, dissemination and take up of ideas.

RRI has gone through a remarkable progress from an academic debate to a firmly established idea, a cross-cutting requirement from the European Commission in each research project that applies for European funding and has received a high-level recognition by the European Council in November 2014 (Rome Declaration). Outside Europe, RRI has also been referred to as inclusive innovation. Innovating with and for the poor. [3] Inclusive innovation is the means by which new goods and services are developed for and/or by the billions of people living on the lowest incomes, such as embrace infant warmers in India at the price of 25 USD which have saved 200,000 lives up to date, instead of an incubator at the price of 20,000 USD.

The demand for practical approaches and instruments supporting the transformation towards RRI is increasing. It is important that policy makers, as well as individual organisations, adjust and adopt the spirit of RRI to their own circumstances and mobilise bottom-up inclusive processes. The actors themselves are the best placed to determine the specific content of RRI through collective bottom-up negotiations and avoid a top-down process. Such a normative focus on the content of RRI might encourage a  “bureaucratic tick-box exercise”, an example of “responsibility-wash”. The success key of RRI will be to embed it in everyday practices and insitutional operations.

There is no simplified definition of RRI (there are different definitions in the literature from Schromberg [4] to Owen [5]). It can be best grasped as the importance of acknowledging conflicting views. Opening up the processes to a discussion on what kind of future we want and “politicising, democratising” the decisions that will influence our life.

Background: The EuroScience Open Forum (ESOF) is a biennial, pan-European, general science conference dedicated to scientific research and innovation. Each conference aims to deliver stimulating content and lively debate around the latest advancements and discoveries in the sciences, humanities and social sciences. (Source: ). ERRIN attended the conference to promote FoTRRIS and gain insights into the current debates on science and society. FoTRRIS project approaches Research and Innovation (R&I) from a systemic point of view and aims at delivering systemic changes. R&I systems include the interaction between the actors who are needed in order to turn an idea into a process, product or service on the market. FoTRRIS wants to facilitate these interactions locally and highlight the responsible local solutions to the global challenges with the help of responsible research and innovation.


[1] RRI: Responsible Research and Innovation

[2] Opportunity now: Europe’s mission to innovate see figure 5

[3] See also frugal innovation – ‘how to do more with less’

[4] René von Schomberg:

[5] Richard Owen:

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