Responsible Research and Innovation (RRI) implies responsiveness to society’s needs and expectations. But how does the business world view these obligations – as a threat? An opportunity? A necessity? At a Field Trip hosted by Dublin City University (DCU) from 20-21 June, 2016, an international team of NUCLEUS project partners met in Dublin, Ireland to explore these questions, and learn about collaborations at the boundaries where public and private sectors blur.
“Ireland has an openness and sense of community that works together to build science policy,” says Caitriona Mordan, Project Officer in RRI at DCU’s School of Communications. “The country is relatively small, so the network of key actors in research and innovation is closely knit. There’s a willingness to work together, to strive towards the same goals, and universities and industry are seen as an integral part of this.”
This environment set the stage for a Field Trip that explored existing RRI practices, as well as barriers to RRI and possible approaches to overcome them. The intense schedule tackled 34 semi-structured interviews with representatives from Science Foundation Ireland, IBM, Dublin City University and the Science Gallery, among many other organisations, and offered perspectives on higher education, collaborative working environments, and businesses large and small.
The interviews revealed creative approaches to addressing societal expectations and values, such as Dublin City University’s reorganising of its research strategy to focus on societal and economic needs; Hackathon collaborations to tackle industry-identified problems; and auditing services for corporate social responsibility. However, participants were equally alert to challenges in bridging the research and business sectors, finding obstacles in different “dialects” of RRI-related concepts, and balancing funding with research independence.
The opportunities and barriers to RRI identified on this Field Trip will be summarised in a report to be published in early September. The recommendations will be based on the Field Trip’s participants’ reflections and their cultural perspectives, representing eight countries and two continents. The report will also feed into the development of an RRI Roadmap, outlining new governance strategies to be implemented in 30 institutions and organisations, beginning in Fall 2017.