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Responsible Research and Innovation – I

What is responsible research and innovation? Watch Dr. Malagrida talk about the transition from the deficit model to modern public engagement practice
Hello, today we are going to talk about different policy agendas that different entities in Europe and around the world have been putting in practice to improve the relationship between science and society already in the 80s there was a strong movement, for example in the UK, which was called public understanding of science to make sure that the relationship between science and society could improve. However, after big efforts from different communities, the scientific literature publishing about the relationship between science and society arrived to a conclusion, which was that the model of relationship that we had was the deficit model.
If you can search on it on Google you can look for articles, and the researchers that do research on this relationship between science and society are called STS Science and Technology studies, so you can search in the literature of these studies and you can see that they talked a lot about the deficit model. In this model of relationship which is the deficit model the science communication that happens basically is aimed at making sure that the scientific community makes its content understandable. So the aim is that we explain in proper manners with proper channels what we do, so that the other stakeholders that have traditionally been left outside of the scientific community can understand what we are doing.
So the aim is that they understand so that we can continue doing our responsible work which is our research. However after the literature said that this was the deficit model, we have realized that that’s not enough. Science communication is critical, it’s really important we must continue doing it but we need to do something else apart from just explaining what we done.
We have realized that there are stakeholders who have traditionally been left outside of the science or innovation system that perhaps we should consider in some way, not only to communicate to them this model of relationship that we are looking for is a model of relationship where these stakeholder, s for example civil society organizations, policymakers or even the education community, are considered in the decision-making process. In this way researchers both in the public sector and in industry start to make decision making, together with these other stakeholders, through collaborative platforms. We can see a wide variety of methodologies to do that. This is what the European. Commission has called responsible research and innovation.
So responsible research and innovation is an approach to research an innovation where we make sure that we collaborate with different stakeholders all through the different phases of the process. That means for example when we need to decide which are the priorities that we want to tackle, which are the priorities for research or for innovation, which are our research and innovation agendas, the question is who is deciding that now and could that process be more open and more inclusive could some stakeholders, perhaps who we may not have been talking to or maybe different sectors of Industry, which we may not have considered, or civil society organizations, policymakers, or the education community, so the first step in a responsible research and innovation process is to make sure we devote enough time to decide who are the stakeholders who want to involve once we involve them and we arrive to a consensus, or at least we listen to their needs before we decide our research priorities, then we can move to design our research process.
In this step we can again analyze who could be the actors that could help me to make my research more effective, or more easily transferable to future phases towards innovation. Then once I have designed my research process I want to execute it. Again, let’s decide who are the stakeholders and which are the mechanisms that I can use to make sure I keep on consulting them, collaborating with them or whatever the level of participation I want to attain in my research process.
The next step after executing my research project maybe I want to implement already some of the knowledge that I have generated, so I want to transfer it and make sure it’s implemented somewhere, so again this process can be done in collaboration and also the communication of the results and the evaluation of all the process, so we can see that there are different phases where we can consider who we want to engage and how we want to engage them. The question of how we want to engage them is not an easy one to answer.
Of course, there are methodologies and there are experts on public engagement or multi stakeholder engagement but luckily we also have websites which can help you to identify methodologies to do it. The first thing to decide how you want to do it is to decide the level of engagement you want to attain let’s put you an example if you are for example in a research center where you are doing molecular biology let’s say perhaps it’s a very technical research what you are doing, and you may think that perhaps you want to disseminate at some stages your research process, but you may think that the general public may have difficulties to contribute to change your result design.
If that’s the case perhaps you want at least to disseminate at some stage, and perhaps even to involve in some decision-making committees at least some members of the users of that research, for example consumers or patients or whoever may be the possible end users, even if it’s not applied research but maybe at some states the basic results have come up with spin-off companies for example, so maybe you want to involve these people in spin-off companies, or whoever can be the ones who can implement the knowledge that you are generating.
Once you have them in a committee for example maybe they are together with other sorts of stakeholders, you may want to consider the level of participation I don’t know if you’ve heard about it but there is a ladder of participation, so when we talk about participation we don’t always mean that we are going to delegate our power. Sometimes we just want to listen to them, sometimes we just want to consult them but sometimes we may or may be at some stages of this process we are where we are just consulting, we may even want to collaborate because perhaps it emerges the fact that they can help you in some aspects of your research.
If I can bring you an example, for example clinical trials, we can talk to patients so that they improve our protocols for clinical trials, but eventually they can also help us to retrieve volunteers, or they can also help us to improve our communication materials, so there are always possibilities of consulting them but perhaps, sometimes the ladder of participation goes even one step further and we even collaborate in some aspects of the process that we are trying to develop.
The upper ladder is delegating the power this is something that may again happen, maybe in some very participatory research processes, maybe we want to delegate the power at some stage, or maybe never for example in my research center we have a community advisory board, and we already told them from the first day that it just to consult, it’s just to reason but that the the end decision-making process is our responsibility so we are talking today about responsible research and innovation, we are talking about sharing our responsibility, but that doesn’t always mean that we want to delegate our responsibility.
However what we are fostering is the collaboration of the different stakeholders to make sure that our processes are more responsive to the needs and expectations of them.

Beyond communication activities: the need for collaboration between researchers and other stakeholders.

We discussed in the previous steps and in the previous activities why communicating science is crucial, and some guidelines that can help you getting started.

In the last two videos of this course, Rosina Malagrida will talk about the evolution of public engagement: the society is not seen anymore just as a passive target of information, but rather as a party that can contribute to scientific process – for instance, as consultants and advisors.

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Science Communication and Public Engagement

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