On 10 June, 2016, NUCLEUS headed to Graz, Austria, for a first exchange of ideas with EU sister projects RRI Tools, IRRESISTIBLE, and SPARKS. The joint session, Towards Responsible Research and Innovation (RRI): practical experiences, took place at the Ecsite Annual Conference, which explores the latest research and developments in public engagement with science.
Together, the projects reflected on the complementary differences in their approaches towards developing and implementing RRI in society. NUCLEUS’ focus on identifying barriers in academic institutions and culture, rather than raising awareness, stands out as one of the distinct differences. “Because we are challenging the traditional definition of research excellence, and even embracing a new definition of RRI, we need to be very practical in our approach,” says project manager Annette Klinkert, who represented NUCLEUS at the session. “What are the obstacles to RRI in university and research environments? What changes can be made from inside the system?”
The overview of the four projects sparked a lively conversation, with comments from session participants already following the progress of RRI, as well as those unfamiliar with the concept. Members of the academic community were especially interested in how RRI might be integrated within the policies and cultures of universities. However, many science communicators were concerned that the evolving language of RRI was complex and inaccessible to wider audiences – possibly an obstacle to RRI in and of itself.
The feedback offers insight for the RRI Roadmap that NUCLEUS will develop for universities, with RRI strategies that must reflect the perspectives and realities of research institutions as well as those of their stakeholders. “Many university-based scientists and science communicators expressed after the session how interested they are in NUCLEUS’ governance-oriented approach,” says Klinkert. “They appreciate that the focus is not promoting RRI, but critically reflecting on its barriers and how they can be overcome.”