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Responsible Research and Innovation (RRI) describes a "research and "innovation process that takes into account effects and potential impacts on the environment and society. The approach is and has been included in "European Framework Programmes and has been developed in scientific and technological publications in journals and conferences, as well as in projects. By June 2014, there were at least a dozen international research projects, most of them funded or co-funded by the "European Commission, that were involved in developing a Responsible Research and Innovation governance framework.
There are several definitions of Responsible Research and Innovation (RRI). RRI "refers to the comprehensive approach of proceeding in research and innovation in ways that allow all stakeholders that are involved in the processes of research and innovation at an early stage (A) to obtain relevant knowledge on the consequences of the outcomes of their actions and on the range of options open to them and (B) to effectively evaluate both outcomes and options in terms of societal needs and moral values and (C) to use these considerations (under A and B) as functional requirements for design and development of new research, products and services." The European Commission (EC) described RRI in an earlier publication as a framework that consisted of six key action points:
RRI can be defined as "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."
According to Owen et al. (2012) there are three main features of RRI that overlap to a great extent with the EC Framework:
According to Stilgoe et al. (2013), RRI has four dimensions:
RRI is best understood as a higher level responsibility that aims to shape, develop, and align existing and future research and innovation-related processes. The concept is applied mainly for science and technology-based research and innovation, in particular in the area of emerging technologies—notably "nanotechnologies, "Information and communications technology (ICT), "genomics, "synthetic biology and geo-engineering. However, some authors state that RRI could also encompass financial instruments, public policy or community innovations, distribution, service or system innovations.
Responsible Research and Innovation is developed as an approach to governing research and innovation at the "European Union level. It is "reflected in many high-level policy, strategy and programming documents, such as the objective of the "Europe 2020 strategy to create smart growth or the "Horizon 2020 programme that defines tackling societal challenges as one of the main priorities."
The term RRI was coined in Europe and the United States in the first decade of the 21st century. Among the first authors who developed this concept from 2003 on were Hellstrom, Guston, Owen, Robinson and others (see the References section below).
At the European level the concept originates from visions for collaborations between social, natural and physical scientists that address the wider dimensions of science and innovation early on. Examples can be found within the 5th and 6th EU Framework Programmes and their calls for socio-technical integration. Specific use of the term "Responsible Research and Innovation" first appeared in a European 6th Framework project on nanotechnology and the life sciences (Robinson 2009).  More examples are calls for greater public engagement with science and technology. According to Owen et al. (2012), integrated approaches such as "Technology assessment in its various forms, referring to publications from Schot and Rip (1996) and Guston and Sarewitz (2002), and "anticipatory governance (see the paper by Karinen and Guston from 2010) are further roots of RRI. They claim that some of these features had been formalised within decision-making processes, such as the so-called "Danish model" for technology assessment based on public participation and deliberation, e.g. through consensus conferences (see ).
In the United States of America, many ideas that have shaped science policy emerged from the writings and influence of Vannevar Bush. Bush’s "Science-The Endless Frontier" (1945) proposed a civilian-led body to support research in the interest of meeting national goals. Bush attempted to design a system that pursued fundamental theoretical work and successfully connected it to application and societal needs.
The European Commission stated in 2013 that because Responsible Research and Innovation was "a cross-cutting action that is implemented throughout "Horizon 2020, 0.5% of the budgets for the 'Societal Challenges' and 'Industrial Leadership' pillars of Horizon 2020 [was] earmarked for RRI/Science with and for Society actions." Innovation and new technologies should meet the global challenges such as climate change and global warming, the efficient use of natural resources, demographic change, global health and development, social cohesion and the maintenance of economic prosperity.
It has been suggested that "Grand Challenges"—tightening supplies of energy, water and food; pandemics; ageing societies; global warming; public health and security—could be useful as a guiding force for RRI, in particular with regards to the criterion of societal desirability. Another possible foundation for societal desirability with democratic legitimacy could be constitutional values. Constitutional values of the European Union are "respect for human dignity, liberty, democracy, equality, the rule of law and respect for human rights, including the rights of persons belonging to minorities. Moreover, the societies of the Member States are characterised by pluralism, non-discrimination, tolerance, justice, solidarity and equality between women and men." Other values that play an important role in this context are the "UN Global Compact's ten principles in the areas of human rights, labour, the environment and anti-corruption. Some member states of the European Union have the ambition to establish their own framework for RRI, so that national criteria and approaches are being developed and implemented. Here are some examples of these national initiatives and their funding in 2008:
Even though Responsible Research and Innovation draws on the body of knowledge and experience provided by the history of "Technology assessment over decades and on the methodological toolbox, it extends the scope of consideration to ethical issues of responsibility and to broader governance and "science, technology and society (STS) issues.
The main difference between "Corporate social responsibility (CSR) and RRI is that the CSR approach tends to be industry-driven or rather "an expression of corporate strategy, corporate identity, market power". CSR decisions are driven by the values of stakeholders by asking "What do stakeholders care about?". In contrast to that RRI establishes procedures to better integrate societal needs in the process of research and innovation and its methodology is centered on the equal roles and responsibility of societal actors and innovators.
Furthermore, CSR is mostly concerned with ethical acceptability (or legal responsibilities of human rights instruments) and sustainability (e.g. reducing pollution), not with societal desirability. This is illustrated by the "United Nations Global Compact, a strategic policy initiative for businesses that are committed to aligning their operations and strategies with ten universally accepted principles, which are concerning human rights, labour standards, the environment and anti-corruption.
The principle of "Creating Shared Value (CSV) starts where the UN Global Compact stops, namely how businesses can pursue social goals as part of their licence to operate. As such there is an overlap with RRI and its focus on societal desirability. However, the goal of CSV is to improve the competitiveness and economic profit of a company by addressing societal issues, whereas RRI ensures that science and innovation are ethically acceptable, sustainable and focused on societal benefits for society as a whole.
The term "Corporate sustainability (also “sustainability” and “sustainable development”) communicates a company’s ambition to align its actions with the major social, environmental and economic changes that face society at large–and to prepare itself for the society of the future. However, it is about business in general and not specifically about Research and Innovation, has unidirectional top-down character and is not associated with collective responsibility, and civil society's engagement.
The acronym ELSA (in Europe) or ELSI (in the U.S.) refers to research activities that anticipate and address "ethical, legal and social aspects (ELSA) or implications (ELSI) of emerging life sciences, such as "genomics and "nanotechnology (Hullman 2008)   ELSI was conceived in 1988 when James Watson, at the press conference announcing his appointment as director of the Human Genome Project (HGP), suddenly and somewhat unexpectedly declared that the ethical and social implications of genomics warranted a special effort and should be directly funded by NIH. Over the years, various ELSI / ELSA programs have been developed, in Canada, Europe (notably in the UK, the Netherlands and Norway) and the Far East. Compared to ELSA (focusing on interdisciplinary collaboration and interaction with societal stakeholders), RRI puts more emphasis on innovation and collaboration with industry.
|"Library resources about
Responsible Research and Innovation
European projects on RRI