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Home > Focus > Journal of Responsible Innovation, Volume 3, Issue 2 Reviewed

Journal of Responsible Innovation, Volume 3, Issue 2 Reviewed

by Jonathan Hankins [1], 21 February 2017

The second issue of Volume 3 of the Journal of Responsible innovation [2] opens with an editorial from Erik Fisher. In Mission impossible? Developing Responsible Innovation in a Global Context, Fisher describes how the issue's four research papers scrutinize the barriers to responsible innovation, while seeking to extend it into new empirical and theoretical domains.

The theme of the development of RI across different global contexts runs through the papers, being very much the theme of this issue.

The first research article is Communicating through vulnerability: knowledge politics, inclusion and responsiveness in responsible research and innovation, by Gabriela Di Giulio, Christopher Groves, Marko Monteiro and Renzo Taddei.

In this paper the authors consider why and how inclusion and responsiveness need to be sensitive to more 'local' understandings of vulnerability and need, drawing on research that explores such understandings in different cultural contexts, conducted in north east Brazil, the north coast of São Paulo and England and Wales, and using a variety of qualitative methods including narrative, biographical interviews, action research and intervention research.

The case studies mentioned involve discussions surrounding individual and group reactions to problems of environmental concern such as risk of flooding or landslides seen from institutional and personal perspectives, reflections upon changes brought about in peoples lives as they are moved due to dam construction, and the construction of narratives of energy use respectively. The themes of identity and the creation of social order run through the case studies, and are addressed through the lenses of inclusion and responsiveness as proposed by various RI authors within definitions and descriptions of RI.

The authors argue that Such virtues (responsiveness and inclusion) must be characterised by a sensitivity to and understanding of the dimensions of knowledge politics as explored by environmental and development justice advocates, if vulnerabilities are not to be ignored and the complexity of entanglements between identities, risks, vulnerabilities, practices and technologies missed.

The case studies present personal interpretations of situations as a tool for understanding how actions taken both by individuals and third parties are interpreted, accepted or not and justified, opening a particular viewpoint from an RI analysis of what responsiveness and inclusion might actually mean.

In Limits to responsible innovation, Evelien de Hoop, Auke Pols and Henny Romijn present a case study on biofuel innovation in Hassan, South India. This case study demonstrates that there are important barriers that may make it difficult to conduct innovation according to RI values.

The authors come to the conclusion that he case study clearly displays a number of factors that may limit or threaten RI. Factors include material barriers to innovation, the price of exnovation of competing practices and innovations (the effect upon previous existing practices), various factors related to the theme of stakeholder involvement, and the absence of theories on how to turn the decision to discontinue a particular innovation process into as much a valid outcome of an RI process as the decision to innovate.

The authors represent these problems in a table in terms of the main tenants of RI as follows:

RESPONSIVENESS; researchers and farmers in Hassan were aware of material barriers. Farmers limited their participation in the project. The project's researchers were unable to find a solution to the barriers identified, such as water shortages. The price of exnovating an existing practice.

ANTICIPATION; RI literature does not explicitly discuss the importance of taking the exnovation of existing practices into account in an RI process. The case study demonstrates that the researchers at Hassan Bio-Fuel Park and policy-makers showed very little concern with exnovation, while the farmers clearly did take this into account, leading to their partial participation in the project.

INCLUSIVENESS; power differences and dependencies. Both farmers and researchers argued they had no other option but to operate within existing power structures. They were all aware of the difficulties that these power structures created and sometimes used able to use them to their own advantage.

REFLEXIVITY; The responsiveness barrier particularly applies to the effect of the project's researchers trying to generate political support.

The authors argue that all of these factors above need and deserve to be included and adequately theorised in the RI literature in order to move towards a framework that helps make innovation, if it should take place at all, more responsible.

In Technical standards in nanotechnology as an instrument of subordinated governance: Mexico case study, Mónica Anzaldo Montoya and Michelle Chauvet analyze the work of the National Standardization Technical Committee on Nanotechnologies (Comité Técnico Nacional de Normalización en Nanotecnologías, CTNNN) (the entity responsible for developing voluntary standards for nanotechnology in Mexico), finding that technical standards are treated primarily as a competitiveness factor.

The authors consider CTNNN to be the nodal point to study the regulation of nanotechnology in Mexico as it is the only body in the country where representatives of government, scientific and industrial sectors work on the development of technical regulations for this technology.

After a brief introduction the article is divided into explanatory sections:

In Methodological Aspects the authors use the Governance Analytical Framework proposed by political scientist Hufty to analyse CTNNN activities, after a prolonged spell of participant observation.

The second section describes the Context of the international regulatory framework for nanotechnology, narrating the history of interest and arguments regarding the safety and social implications for widespread nanotechnology distribution within society and current regulatory set-up.

In CTNNN as a nodal point for the regulation of nanotechnology in Mexico the authors describe the position and working practices of the CTNNN, its members and the effect of their participation upon the regulatory process.

In Reflection on the governance process and its characterization, the authors describe some of the legislation in practice, arguing that there is a lack of public involvement and that the regulation of naontechnology is not seen as a public concern.

In the final Conclusions section, the authors argue that the study is illustrative of the conditions of subordinate governance in a Latin American country when facing highly controversial technologies, reiterating the axis of the paper that standardization is not a neutral activity, but one which reflects and materialises the interests and values of those who participate in its elaboration.

The fourth and final research article in this issue is Responsible innovation for decent nonliberal peoples: a dilemma? by Pak-Hang Wong. In this article the author argues that there is an urgent need to return to the normative foundation of RI, and to explore the notion of 'responsible innovation' from nonliberal democratic perspectives.

The author uses the notion of The Decent Nonliberal Peoples' Dilemma, arguing that unless RI can take a wider standpoint it will remain limited in its application and runs the risk of appearing colonial. The author uses the Rawls analysis of what a decent non liberal state might be, arguing that current constructions of RI are unworkable within such states.

The author goes on to explain that different forms of Confucian philosophy can underpin the RI argument, questioning whether it is right to reject China's take on RI as a result, before asking the question of how the position that liberal democratic values of freedom can be the only underpinning philosophy for RI. The author concludes that the paper can be viewed as a call for more extensive research on 'non-Western' ethics and political philosophy and their relevance to RI.

The research articles are followed by a perspective piece and two book reviews.

In New modes of engagement for big data research, David E. Winickoff, Leila Jamal and Nicholas R. Anderson argue that the integration of large health data sets raises significant social and ethical questions around the control of health information, human subjects research protection, and access to treatments. They describe how three modes of engagement have co-evolved out of new information technology and the cultures of disease advocacy: crowdsourcing, social networking platforms, and dynamic consenting, before arguing that these modes of engagement are promising avenues of responsible innovation.

Raffael Himmelsbach reviews Experiment earth: responsible innovation in geoengineering by Jack Stilgoe.

The author describes each chapter in detail, before describing it a rich book that is superbly informed and adds quality to the geoengineering debate.

Govert Valkenburg reviews Policy-oriented technology assessment across Europe. Expanding capacities by Lars Klüver, Rasmus Øjvind Nielsen, and Marie Louise Jørgensen, the final publication of the FP7-funded project PACITA, Parliaments and Civil Society in Technology Assessment.

The book is divided into three parts: mapping the current landscape, best practices and lessons to be learnt, and spelling the future of cross-European technology assessment (TA), preceded by a Manifesto that sets the program for a European version of TA . The author finds many faults in the book however.

Once again the Journal of Responsible Innovation has offered a high quality critique of developments in the field. As always several of the Volume's articles are offered open access, and we urge our readers to investigate further.


ALL THE REVIEWS of the Journal by Jonathan Hankins:

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

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

Volume 3 part 1 [8] / part 2 [9] / part 3 [10]

Volume 4 part 1 [11]


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  1. 1] /schedabiografica/Jonathan Hankins
  2. 2] http://www.tandfonline.com/toc/tjri20/3/2?nav=tocList
  3. 3] /en/focus/2014/03/a_review_of_the_journal_of_res.html
  4. 4] /en/focus/2014/10/journal_of_responsible_innovat_1.html
  5. 5] /en/focus/2015/02/journal_of_responsible_innovat_2.html
  6. 6] /en/focus/2015/06/journal_of_responsible_innovat_3.html
  7. 7] /en/focus/2016/01/volume_2_journal_of_responsibl.html
  8. 8] /en/focus/2016/09/journal_of_responsible_innovat_4.html
  9. 9] /en/focus/2017/02/journal_of_responsible_innovat_5.html
  10. 10] /en/focus/2017/03/journal_of_responsible_innovat_6.html
  11. 11] /en/focus/2017/10/journal_of_responsible_innovat_7.html
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Journal of Responsible Innovation, Volume 3, Issue 2 Reviewed
Articles by:  Jonathan Hankins
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