Does Proof of Concept Trump All? RRI Dilemmas in Research Practices
Journal article, Peer reviewed
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Original versionBorch, Throne-Holst. Does Proof of Concept Trump All? RRI Dilemmas in Research Practices. Science and Engineering Ethics. 2021 https://doi.org/10.1007/s11948-021-00288-8
Over the last decades, the dominant ways of conducting science have been challenged by responsible research and innovation (RRI) (Stahl et al. 2019). RRI is outlined in the Rome declaration as ‘the on-going process of aligning research and innovation to the values, needs, and expectations of society’ (European Commission 2014). In RRI, societal actors work together during the whole Research and Innovation (R&I) process in order to better align R&I outcomes to commonly (European) shared values. The matter of what we, as a society, want out of science and technology is as, if not more important, than, say, health, safety and risk management. Since 2009, the political and academic discourse on RRI has experienced exceptional growth (Timmermans 2017). Although the strength of the discourse has stabilised or decreased over the last few years (Silva et al. 2019), its emphasis on ‘societal and environmental impact’ and ‘user involvement’ are still pursued in important research calls such as the new Horizon Europe Framework Programme for 2020 to 2027 (Von Schomberg and Hankins 2019). So far, most research on RRI has been conceptual, addressing frameworks and approaches, whereas less attention has been paid to practical issues relating to its implementation such as challenges, dilemmas and constraints (Nathan 2015; Timmermans 2017; Kuzma and Roberts 2018; Ribeiro et al. 2018). To address this knowledge gap and to better understand potential barriers to the widespread adoption of RRI, this paper focuses on the challenges faced by researchers who are meeting the RRI framework for the frst time. This focus is warranted on the basis of two primary observations; frstly, because we have found these challenges to be most explicitly articulated in the frst phase of an R&I processes, and secondly, because the research results presented in this paper will speak directly to those most in need of this kind of knowledge, i.e. researchers who are about to implement mandatory RRI for the frst time.