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Home > Focus > Journal of Responsible innovation, Review of Volume 4, part 1

Journal of Responsible innovation, Review of Volume 4, part 1

by Jonny Hankins [1], 10 October 2017

The autumn means the release of issue 2 of Volume 4 of the Taylor and Francis published Journal of Responsible Innovation [2]. In this the first of two posts covering this volume's publications, we review the articles from issue 1 [3].

The journal opens with an editorial by journal Editor in Chief Erik Fisher entitled Responsible innovation in a post-truth moment. The editorial very much sets the scene for the issue as a whole, and particularly the perspectives pieces. Fisher sums up some of the changing problems faced by RI practitioners in the following phrase influenced by the work of Brian Wynne:

"The populist skepticism toward free trade, open borders, and scientific management that is at the moment fueling dismissals and deregulation is to a large extent rooted in pervasive experiences of disenfranchisement that in turn stem from overlooked concerns over livelihood, vulnerability, and identity. In short, unhealthy distance between powerful elites and disaffected publics has contributed to a classic case of public alienation".

He argues however that we (the community of practitioners) can find positive resources and responses within RI in the face of despair, offering hope in RI's future facing approach and social and grass-roots credentials.

The first of three research articles is Responsible Innovation and political accountability: genetically modified mosquitoes in Brazil by André Sica de Campos, Sarah Hartley, Christiaan de Koning, Javier Lezaun and Lea Velho.

The authors analyze the introduction of genetically modified (GM) mosquitoes in Brazil and use the case to probe the notion of Responsible Innovation and its applicability to the development of new public health biotechnologies in the global South, discussing the regulatory history of the chosen mosquito in Brazil, as well as the forms of 'community engagement' that have accompanied the release of transgenic mosquitoes.

The article opens with a detailed description of the research and application strategies adopted in the case in question, leading to the criticism that much of the public participation strategy could be seen as a form of public relations or even publicity strategy, to the exclusion of public involvement in the research and application process. The effects of the lack of real community engagement during the development stages and the effect of social media in damaging the work is also highlighted.

The importance of how the project is defined for its regulation is another issue debated; does the case represent a scientific endeavor, an attempt to improve UK trade, or one of many other possibilities (or a combination of the above)? The issue of political backing is also discussed and its importance for the project highlighted.

The authors conclude with a statement that very much reflects the Foundation's standpoint on RI, one that it has worked to promote throughout its history:

"This is why, in our opinion, the concept of Responsible Innovation needs to be more closely interlinked with a strong notion of political accountability. Political decisions create the conditions of possibility for specific innovation trajectories, within which discrete research and development projects then unfold. The ability to scrutinize these decisions determines whether and how core ideas associated with Responsible Innovation, such as inclusive deliberation or responsiveness, are adopted by innovation actors and, if so, to what effect".

The issue continues with a somewhat related article, Genetically engineered crops and responsible innovation by Justin B. Biddle, a paper that attempts to reframe the genetically engineered crops debate by focusing on the question of what responsible research and innovation (RRI) in agricultural biotechnology would look like.

The paper criticizes the way in which current debates over GE crops, and agricultural technologies more generally, are framed in terms of a distinction between GE and non-GE crops. The author argues that this way of framing the debate is misleading, because there is no set of risks that applies to all and only GE crops. He argues that a more helpful way of framing the debate would be in terms of the question of whether particular agricultural technologies (whether or not they are GE) are responsibly designed. This re-framing may help stakeholders to come together and discuss the issues surrounding this technology as it allows the inclusion of both benefits and concerns (including social concerns) to the debate.

The third research article is Conceptualizing playfulness for reflection processes in responsible research and innovation contexts: a narrative literature review by Marjoleine G. van der Meij, Jacqueline E. W. Broerse and Frank Kupper.

In this article the authors synthesize a framework for playfulness for one particular type of learning: responsible research and innovation (RRI) reflection processes. Four activity principles - narration, imagination, action-reflection and co-creation - and three playfulness process requirements - experimentation space, focus and stimulating guidance are extracted from literature about playfulness in various learning and reflection contexts, and translated into the RRI context with advice offered on how they might be used.

The article begins with an overview of playfulness literature, before the methodology and study selection is explained. Findings are then introduced, explained through the four activity principles described above.

In the discussion that follows, the authors identify activity principles and process requirements, before limitations of the study and suggestions for further research are made. A section on Translating playfulness design elements for RRI reflection processes follows in which the authors explain how a narrative approach might help participants to understand the R&I field, and help them to share their views, how imagination can provide an abundance of stimulus, how action-reflection activities help people to discover the potential consequences of their own and other people's viewpoints and actions, and how co-creation could contribute to developing future visions and research agendas.

The process conditions are then described in terms of what they offer for RRI processes, before concluding remarks on the potential effects of playfulness within RRI research and literature.

The journal continues with a series of perspectives pieces. In When the going gets tough, the tough get going: towards a new - more critical - engagement with responsible research and innovation in an age of Trump, Brexit, and wider populism, Thomas B. Long and Vincent Blok explore how responsible research and innovation (RRI) interacts with the current political context.

The authors address the possible consequences for RRI of the influence of the forms of thinking promoted by so-called populist movements, investigate the role that RRI or lack of RRI may have played in these developments, and offer some suggestions about how RRI practice should respond and adapt to this new situation. They argue in their conclusion that RRI needs to evolve to provide an effective conduit for criticisms and the input of critical thinking and reflexivity into science and innovation, including in terms of economic policy and politics.

In the second perspective piece On irresponsibility in times of crisis: learning from the response to the Zika virus outbreak, Marko Monteiro, Clare Shelley-Egan and Jim Dratwa argue that in times of emergent health crises (taking the Zika virus outbreak as their primary example), irresponsibilities may arise in the way responses which involve science and technology are framed and implemented. The case studied is that of the introduction of the genetically modified mosquito described in the first research article in this issue above.

For the authors irresponsibility refers both to forms of crisis governance implemented in times of emergency which do not fully engage with the public in ways which may be considered participatory or reflexive and to a lack of care for the future, arguing that debates on the adoption of controversial technologies in times of health crisis may distract from the need to understand how preexisting unequal social relationships and the broader socio-political context are key to understanding both the dynamics of the outbreak and the possible solutions, or failures to respond adequately.

The authors' main focus is the problem of the rushed and non reflexive introduction of a technological fix once a situation has been defined an emergency that might not take underlying causes into consideration.

The final perspective piece in this issue is Who should be the principal of innovation? by Karsten Bolz.

This piece offers a lot of food for thought as it addresses arguments that are close to the interests of the Foundation; the role of the entrepreneur in innovation and their position of responsibility regarding the relationship between innovation and society.

The RRI concept is described as the aim of discovering new ways of making society the principal of agents of innovation; for example, making society a co-creator of innovation, a clear and encompassing definition that brings together many of the underlying goals, aims and influences that underpin the approach. The piece closes with an overview of some positions related to how such an approach could be designed.

Once again the Journal of Responsible Innovation offers a wide range of high quality arguments, addressing many of the issues that the Basseti Foundation has approached over its lifetime.

Part 2 of this review looks at issue 2 of Volume 4, published earlier this autumn.

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ALL THE REVIEWS of the Journal by Jonathan Hankins:

2014
Volume 1 part 1 [4] / part 2 [5] / part 3 [6]

2015
Volume 2 part 1 [7] / part 2 & 3 [8]

2016
Volume 3 part 1 [9] / part 2 [10] / part 3 [11]

2017
Volume 4 part 1 [12]

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Links in this document:

  1. 1] http://www.fondazionebassetti.org/schedabiografica/Jonny Hankins
  2. 2] http://www.tandfonline.com/action/journalInformation?show=aimsScope&journalCode=tjri20
  3. 3] http://www.tandfonline.com/toc/tjri20/4/1?nav=tocList
  4. 4] http://www.fondazionebassetti.org/en/focus/2014/03/a_review_of_the_journal_of_res.html
  5. 5] http://www.fondazionebassetti.org/en/focus/2014/10/journal_of_responsible_innovat_1.html
  6. 6] http://www.fondazionebassetti.org/en/focus/2015/02/journal_of_responsible_innovat_2.html
  7. 7] http://www.fondazionebassetti.org/en/focus/2015/06/journal_of_responsible_innovat_3.html
  8. 8] http://www.fondazionebassetti.org/en/focus/2016/01/volume_2_journal_of_responsibl.html
  9. 9] http://www.fondazionebassetti.org/en/focus/2016/09/journal_of_responsible_innovat_4.html
  10. 10] http://www.fondazionebassetti.org/en/focus/2017/02/journal_of_responsible_innovat_5.html
  11. 11] http://www.fondazionebassetti.org/en/focus/2017/03/journal_of_responsible_innovat_6.html
  12. 12] http://www.fondazionebassetti.org/en/focus/2017/10/journal_of_responsible_innovat_7.html
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Journal of Responsible innovation, Review of Volume 4, part 1
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