Names are powerful. They shape our first impressions and give us clues about identity. So why would a project about Responsible Research and Innovation (RRI) be named after a biology concept?
The easy answer is that it’s an acronym (New Understanding of Communication, Learning and Engagement in Universities and Scientific Institutions, if you’re curious), but the real reason goes deeper, reflecting the NUCLEUS project’s understanding of RRI as a living, dynamic environment.
NUCLEUS views the different stakeholders of research as the “cells” of a larger organism – each possessing a distinct function and skillset, and governed by a nucleus that directs its behaviour. When these cells work together, they are able to accomplish more complex and challenging tasks than any single one could individually.
Similarly, universities and research institutes with strong cultures of RRI engage entrepreneurs, policymakers, journalists and other stakeholders throughout the entire research process. Although differences in perspectives can require patience and effort to work through together, these interactions also offer unique insights for stronger research projects, and outcomes and communication better aligned with societal needs.
The NUCLEUS project asks how the governance of universities and research institutes, as nuclei of their cells, can develop institutional cultures of RRI through their leadership. How do policies encourage engagement with those outside of traditional research? Does the culture support researchers when they make the effort? And what resources are available to them?
The recommended strategies that develop from these questions will be put to the test for two years at 30 test sites. By implementing, observing, and refining new policies and programs in real institutions, NUCLEUS aims to understand the DNA of RRI, and how to bring it to life in modern research.
Onion cells and their nuclei. Image credit: Kaibara (Creative Commons)