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Home > Focus > A review of the Journal of Responsible Innovation

A review of the Journal of Responsible Innovation

by Jonathan Hankins [1], 26 March 2014

In this post I would like to take a look at the first issue of the new Journal of Responsible Innovation. As readers may know the journal is edited by David Guston and published through Taylor and Francis, who have generously made the first edition open access. All of the following articles are free to download on the Taylor and Francis website. [2]

I would like to go through the journal article by article offering my own informal view in the hope of orienting the reader. The journal opens with the following research articles:

Article 1, Responsible innovation: motivations for a new journal is written by David H. Guston, Erik Fisher, Armin Grunwald, Richard Owen, Tsjalling Swierstra & Simone van der Burg.

This chapter offers an overview of ideas surrounding RI and latest developments, an overview of the first issue and the motivations for the new journal. An interesting read as it gives a good background and history to the ideas surrounding RI as well as painting a picture of the contemporary landscape.

Article 2, Governance of new product development and perceptions of responsible innovation in the financial sector: insights from an ethnographic case study, by Keren Asantea, Richard Owen and Glenn Williamson.

The authors describe an ethnographic study within a global asset management company aimed at understanding the process and governance of new product development and perceptions of responsible innovation.

The piece offers a nice description of the innovation process using stage gates, and suggests that inserting RI into a more holistic version of these processes seen might be a good approach. Fabian Muniesa who participated in the Bassetti Foundation Lecture in 2012 [3] is often mentioned.

Article 3, Mapping 'social responsibility' in science, by Cecilie Glerup & Maja Horst

This article employs the Foucauldian notion of 'political rationality' to map discussions and ideals about the responsibility of science toward society. The authors ask the following three questions of papers taken from a sample of academic journals:
How is the specific problem (or problems) about lack of responsibility in science articulated?
What are the central aspects of science (or its relation to society) that need to be changed according to each articulation?
What kinds of solutions to the problems are imagined in these articulations and how are these solutions supposed to be put into place?

In an interesting article for RI governance, four different rationalities of the social responsibility of science are identified as reflexivity, contribution, demarcation and integration.

Article 4, Knowledge kills action - why principles should play a limited role in policy-making by J. Britt Holbrooka and Adam Briggle.

An analysis of two principles, one that aims to prevent or restrain an activity until cause-effect relations are better understood (precaution), and the other whose aim is to generally promote the activity while learning more about cause-effect relations along the way (proaction).

The authors argue that there is a middle ground shared by these two perspectives, but that their description in extreme or somehow cartoon terms masks this. They conclude that the significant middle ground shared by the two principles means that they could be used to arrive at very similar policy prescriptions.

Article 5, Where are the politics in responsible innovation? European governance, technology assessments, and beyond by Michiel van Oudheusden.

I take the following quote from the conclusion, asking readers to think about how close the following may be related to ideas of the Bassetti Foundation:

"Because RI proponents act to change the world, so to speak, they engage in politics in a broad sense. Yet politics, as well as power, are not sufficiently theorized or acknowledged within the RI framework. It is therefore necessary to open RI and RI enactments to political critique, with the aim of remedying the shortcomings of RI. This article proposes:
A. making visible how actors involved in deliberation actually negotiate the terms of their engagement rather than assuming that deliberation improves the quality of decisions and enhances democracy;
B. opening up discussion among all involved parties on the politics of deliberative engagement, including the process norms that govern interaction (e.g. reciprocity) and the substantive biases inherent in RI (e.g. ethical concerns outweigh economic concerns);
C. acknowledging that contemporary conceptions of RI are institutionally weak and that RI has only a limited institutional problem solving capacity, as deliberative outcomes cannot be enforced in the policy arena".

The author offers the following problem definition:
RI is too much about talk, argumentation, and due process.
Failing to consider how RI processes are imbued with politics renders RI politically weak.
Treatment recommendation:
Make RI more political by attending to the politics in and of RI, and the institutional uptake of RI.

A discussion paper follows the research articles, Responsible innovation, the art and craft of anticipation by Alfred Nordmann.

The article offers 15 remarks on the art of anticipation as a critique of speculative ethics.

The article receives the following comments:

On the hermeneutic need for future anticipation by Simone van der Burg
On not forgetting futures by Cynthia Selin
From foresight to hindsight: the promise of history in responsible innovation by James Wilsdon

The Perspectives section follows the Discussion Paper and Comments.

The UK Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council's commitment to a framework for responsible innovation by Richard Owen.

Owen describes the development of the UK Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council (ESPRC) framework for responsible innovation over a four-year period, and key inputs which shaped its evolution and framing. He concludes with some thoughts about future directions.

Responsible innovation as an endorsement of public values: the need for interdisciplinary research by B. Taebia, A. Correljéa, E. Cuppenb, M. Dignuma and U. Pesch.

The authors argue that responsible innovation requires interdisciplinary research. They suggest that responsible innovation can be realized by involving, alongside science and engineering:
A. the ethics of technology, to investigate the role of values in technological design;
B. institutional theory, to understand the role of institutions in the realization of values;
C. the policy, planning and STS literature, to focus on stakeholder engagement.

Notes from the S.NET conference by Jonathan Hankins
My own contribution is a review of some of the articles presented at the S.NET conference held in Boston last year. I also raise the issue of the underrepresentation of participatory approaches to the study of RI and suggest that these approaches may participatory approach may well go some way towards allowing policy-makers and governing bodies access to the informal mechanisms of research design, practice, and public perception.

The Perspectives section is followed by the Reviews section, featuring the following:

Special Eurobarometer 401: survey summary on responsible research and innovation, science and technology, reviewed by Grace Eden

The reviewer raises some interesting questions and suggestions about the data, concluding that results provide an opportunity to reflect upon how RRI might be positioned within the larger context of "Science in Society" and "Research Integrity".

Refining expertise: how responsible engineers subvert environmental justice challenges by Kelly Moore is a review of the book of the title above written by Gwen Ottinger.

The reviewer concludes that Refining Expertise is a much-needed contribution to studies of environmental justice under neoliberalism.

Ethics on the laboratory floor by Julio R. Tuma is a review of Ethics on the Laboratory Floor, by Simone van der Burg and Tsjalling Swierstra.

This is an extremely comprehensive, thorough and critical review of the work, concluding that the book as a whole is stimulating, the scholarship cutting edge, and the breadth of topics covered impressive.

Fixed: the science/fiction of human enhancement by Stevienna de Saille is a review of Fixed: The Science/Fiction of Human Enhancement, a new documentary by California filmmaker Regan Brashear.

The author concludes that the film remains a highly entertaining, as well as visually and intellectually stimulating presentation, making it ideal as introductory material for classroom use. As a way of visualizing and personalizing a difficult, multi-faceted debate, they highly recommended it both to academics and the general public.

I would like to add that I also reviewed the film on my technology blog [4] for a non academic audience, coming to a similar conclusion.

As I stated at the top of this post, the first issue is an open access publication, and represents a great body of work and foundation for the future of the journal. Readers will know many of the contributors through their collaborations with the Bassetti Foundation and publications that have been reviewed here or feature Foundation contributors.

As a member of the Journal's Editorial Board I invite readers not only to download the first issue but also to consider submitting articles for future editions, and thank and congratulate all of the contributors to this seminal publication.


ALL THE REVIEWS of the Journal by Jonathan Hankins:

Volume 1 part 1 [5] / part 2 [6] / part 3 [7]

Volume 2 part 1 [8] / part 2 & 3 [9]

Volume 3 part 1 [10] / part 2 [11] / part 3 [12]

Volume 4 part 1 [13]


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  1. 1] /schedabiografica/Jonathan Hankins
  2. 2] http://www.tandfonline.com/toc/tjri20/current
  3. 3] /en/focus/2013/01/risk_and_responsibility_in_inn_1.html
  4. 4] http://www.technologybloggers.org/science/fixed-a-film-review/
  5. 5] /en/focus/2014/03/a_review_of_the_journal_of_res.html
  6. 6] /en/focus/2014/10/journal_of_responsible_innovat_1.html
  7. 7] /en/focus/2015/02/journal_of_responsible_innovat_2.html
  8. 8] /en/focus/2015/06/journal_of_responsible_innovat_3.html
  9. 9] /en/focus/2016/01/volume_2_journal_of_responsibl.html
  10. 10] /en/focus/2016/09/journal_of_responsible_innovat_4.html
  11. 11] /en/focus/2017/02/journal_of_responsible_innovat_5.html
  12. 12] /en/focus/2017/03/journal_of_responsible_innovat_6.html
  13. 13] /en/focus/2017/10/journal_of_responsible_innovat_7.html
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A review of the Journal of Responsible Innovation
Articles by:  Jonathan Hankins
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