Advancing the concept & practice of Responsible Research and Innovation


Fern Wickson

Fern Wickson

GenØk scientist Fern Wickson has published two new articles that work to advance the concept and practice of “Responsible Research and Innovation” (RRI).

RRI is currently being taken up and developed internationally as an important approach to the governance of new and emerging technologies in an age facing serious social and environmental challenges and conditions of pervasive complexity and uncertainty.

The first article, “Standardising Responsibility? The importance of interstitial spaces” emphasizes the significance of international standards for shaping science, innovation and policy. It then argues that despite their importance as a kind of interstitial space, the practices and bodies involved in developing international standards have been largely neglected in the work on RRI and fail to implement the norms of RRI that are emerging. The article concludes that although current models for RRI provide a promising attempt to make research and innovation more responsive to societal needs, ethical values and environmental challenges, such approaches will need to encompass and address a greater diversity of innovation system agents and spaces if they are to prove successful in their aims.

The second article “Quality criteria and indicators for responsible research and innovation: Learning from transdisciplinarity” argues that without more concrete elaboration, the interpretive flexibility of the concept of RRI is so broad as to effectively render it meaningless. The articulation of quality criteria and indicators is therefore crucial for RRI to be understood and operationalized by researchers, research funders, innovators and other relevant stakeholders. This article specifically draws on knowledge and experience from the transdisciplinary research community, combined with recent multi-stakeholder deliberative work on the concrete case of nanoremediation, to make an offering on the challenge of articulating quality criteria and approaches to evaluate RRI. It presents an iteratively arrived at set of quality criteria, designates significant elements of each of these, and then develops an evaluative rubric of performance indicators across them. The article presents this case study as a useful example for how evaluative criteria and approaches can be developed and as offering a helpful frame for sponsoring and structuring the ongoing conversations on quality criteria and indicators necessary if RRI is to reach its full potential.

Wickson, F. and Forsberg, E-M. (2014) “Standardising Responsibility? The Significance of Interstitial Spaces” Science and Engineering Ethics DOI 10.1007/s11948-014-9602-4

Wickson, F. And Carew, A.L. (2014) “Quality criteria and indicators for responsible research and innovation: learning from transdisciplinarity” Journal of Responsible Innovation 1(3): 254-273