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Home > Focus > Journal of Responsible Innovation, Vol 3, Issue 3 Reviewed

Journal of Responsible Innovation, Vol 3, Issue 3 Reviewed

by Jonathan Hankins [1], 17 March 2017

Late December 2016 saw the publication of the third and final issue of Volume 3 of the Journal of Responsible Innovation [2]. A review of issue 1 [3] is available here, and issue 2 is reviewed here [4]. In this post we offer an overview of issue 3.

The issue opens with an editorial from Editor in Chief Erik Fisher. In Framings and frameworks of responsible innovation, Fisher explains that the issue focuses on applications and assessments of various responsible innovation frameworks, and in particular in following on from previous issues the challenge of implementation that often requires navigating among conflicting constructs, as well as that of translating abstract ideals into a plurality of diverse settings.

The publication contains three research articles, the first of which Responsible research and innovation: a productive model for the future of medical innovation is authored by Olivier Demers-Payette, Pascale Lehoux & Geneviève Daudelin.

The authors' aim is to deepen understanding of the responsible research and innovation (RRI) approach as it relates to health care systems, by drawing on the content of three mixed focus groups on health care system challenges that technological innovation could help address. The focus groups were held in Canada, the authors offering empirical data through which they explore the four dimensions of the Stilgoe et.al. definition of RI (anticipation, reflexivity, inclusion, and responsiveness).

The reader is first led through an analysis of the current health care innovation situation, describing how the needs and expectations of health care systems make the governance of their innovation systems extremely complex, but that models for such governance seem to reflect the aims and intentions laid out in Stilgoe et.al's definition for RI. The authors follow with a description of how responsibility is framed within health care systems, before describing how focus groups are used within such systems.

An analysis of the four major RI concepts follows, using instructive quotes taken from the focus groups, before a section that outlines possible moves towards RI in medical innovation. The authors offer two perspectives, the first on the key issues that RI within medical innovation should seek to address, and the second arguing for a more specific understanding of what responsible medical innovation may entail, a problem that brings forward the relevance of establishing further linkages between the RI framework and existing bodies of knowledge.

The authors conclude that their analysis brings the key challenges that responsible medical innovation could address to the fore by articulating: (1) a clearer understanding of the uses of a medical innovation and of its context; (2) a better alignment between health and innovation value systems and social practices; (3) a sustained engagement of users and the public in the innovation process; and (4) a flexible steering of innovation trajectories within a highly regulated environment.

The issue's second research article is Towards an alignment of activities, aspirations and stakeholders for responsible innovation authored by Rider W. Foley, Michael J. Bernstein & Arnim Wiek.

The aim of this paper is to inform RI with sustainability principles, proposing an alignment of activities, aspirations, and stakeholders with previously defined dimensions for RI. The authors use a case study on nanotechnology innovation conducted in Phoenix Arizona to illustrate the applicability of their proposed framework for assessing innovation governance, in the belief that their idea of alignment, buttressed by insights from sustainability and adaptive management, can support the practice of RI by government agencies, industry, and diverse stakeholders.

After an introduction within which the authors describe different RI approaches in detail, they come to a primary conclusion that calls for RI rarely address the questions of "to what end?" and "who should be doing what to innovate responsibly?". They then go on to offer an alternative framework that aligns activities, stakeholders, and sustainability aspirations for policy-relevant decision contexts, showing critical interactions and overlaps between procedural elements and substantive outcomes.

The second section of the paper aims to align activities, aspirations and stakeholders for RI, offering five central activities for RI. These activities revisit those offered by Stilgoe et. al. once more, but are added to and focus changed in order to develop the argument of the paper. Adaption is used in place of responsiveness, with a justification and explanation offered, and the concepts of engagement and coordination are also introduced and explained in relation to the current RI terminology typically found in use.

A section on aspirations for RI expands upon Von Schomberg's normative anchoring concept, introducing Socio-ecological viability, Human flourishing and Livelihood opportunity as dimensions that guide the intra- and inter-generational justice aspirations found in sustainability literature. The authors go on to describe intra and inter generational justice in further detail, before moving on to their case study, tangible examples and a call for further necessary steps. The case study is well documented and clear, with a lot of data surrounding statements of responsibility, activities and aspirations and stakeholder activity presented in a variety of formats.

The authors conclude that "if emerging technologies are to meet the needs of current generations without diminishing the opportunities available to future generations, aspirations must be recognized and aligned with innovation activities through improved governance mechanisms".

He third and final research article is Process, outcomes, virtues: the normative strategies of responsible research and innovation and the challenge of moral pluralism by Sophie Pellé.

Pelle analyses the normative foundations of responsibility in the recent literature on responsible research and innovation, finding that that RRI approaches invoke three main types of moral reasoning to define responsibility corresponding to key philosophical traditions: proceduralism, consequentialism and virtue ethics. The paper aims to show how each type of moral reasoning strategy used by most RRI approaches deals with the tension between the requirement for pluralism and the application of normative theories and how each attempts to resolve it.

Following an introduction in which the author outlines her argument the parer is divided into four large sections:
Section 1 presents the various conditions that have been proposed by the procedural approach of RRI and how the latter deals with the issue of pluralism.
Section 2 scrutinizes how theories that have both a procedural and an outcome-oriented dimension relate to these two dimensions.
Section 3 focuses on RRI approaches that rely on an interpretation of responsibility based on virtue.
Section 4 discusses the relevance of these three general strategies concerning the aforementioned tension that arises between the requirement for value pluralism and the practical constraints raised by the application of norms.

In section 1 the author describes the proceduralist approaches to RI, such as those proposed by Owen et.al and David Guston among others. The author describes the five oft-cited conditions for RI (inclusion, transparency, anticipation, responsiveness and reflexivity), before opening section 2 with a discussion on responsibility and substantive ends, arguing that alongside the procedural structure described above, RI approaches also rely on specific sets of outcome-oriented norms that the process should try to achieve. The main author referred to in this section is Rene Von Schomberg, with not only the process but also output seen as necessary for the fulfillment of RI.

The third strategy described and observed in the RI literature is described as one of virtue ethics, the main authors cited being Richard Owen, Groves and Pelle herself. The author summarizes that "in this perspective, responsibility does not stem from conditions that should be satisfied or from the achievement of substantive norms. It relates with the capacity of individuals and organizations to act virtuously, and more precisely to care about other human and non-human entities".

Section 4 discusses Procedural theories and the co-construction of the context, and interpreting responsibility as care, before moving on to concluding that current RI approaches use different elements from the strategies described above in order to ground responsibility.

The research articles are followed by a discussion paper.

In How fast should we innovate?, Thomas Vogt argues that the role of speed in innovations needs to be explored more thoroughly. He argues that research into replacements for scarce materials should be artificially sped up, and legislation should be put into place to extend product life, slowing down incremental updates and reducing pressure on the planet's ecosystem.

The author proposes the use of financial incentives and discentives in the form of tax regulation, in order to gain control of the speed at which different innovations and forms of innovation proceed, arguing that fast innovation is not always the best form of innovation.

The speeding up case is first based upon an argument of scarecity of raw materials, so that long term projects can aim at resource replacement strategies, mirroring the goal of slowing down technology replacement in order to minimise the risk of damaging the environment.

The paper receives two comments.

In Slowing the pace of technological change?, Edward J. Woodhouse shares the concerns raised in Vogt's commentary, offering several suggestions to facilitate scholarly inquiry, collective deliberation, and public policy.

The author proposes two re-framing moves, the first requiring the author to address the issue of what is driving innovation, and the second to reasess who is actually carrying out innovative practices. The question of how fast is too fast is also raised, with the issue of the need for trial and error raised and the time implications of such realities. Possible tactics are then offered, including changes in funding and regulatory structures.

In Addressing scarcities in responsible innovation, Andy Stirling argues that wider and possibly more important questions should be raised about the speed and direction in which fields of 'responsible research and innovation' and 'responsible innovation' might best proceed.

Stirling describes how the concept of RI is built upon older concepts such as sustainable development and the precautionary principle, but criticises Vogt's use of the terminology, but his main criticism is that the entire frame for analysis inherently restricts attention merely to the 'speed' of innovation, rather than to its direction. He concludes that RI must be reflexive and respectful about the broader political dynamics in which it is embedded if it is to grow as a driver of progressive agency.

The comments are followed by the Perspectives section.

In Responsible innovation and the reshaping of existing technological trajectories: the hard case of
genetically modified crops
, Phil Macnaghten addresses the problem of GM foods and argues that "if frameworks of responsible innovation are to prove successful in aligning innovation dynamics with societal values, they will have to demonstrate their capacities to shape existing technological trajectories, alongside those that remain 'in-the-making'.

The arguments in this article are based upon the author's experience working within the GM Futuros project, and reflect many of the articles published as a result in the edited collection Governing Agricultural Sustainability: Global Lessons from GM Crops, co-edited by the author.

The underlying question addressed is that of whether RI frameworks offer potentials to open up governance arrangements on technologies that are already relatively mature, that already hold a certain degree of path dependency and that may have already proved to be socially and politically controversial. This is done through presenting a series of case studies drawn from several different countries where the use of GM seeds is already widespread with the author arguing the need to move away from pure risk analysis and towards gaining a broader social and economic understanding of the effects brought about by these changes.

The journal closes with a final perspectives piece.

In The clothes of the emperor. An essay on RRI in and around Brussels, Arie Rip describes his expereinces in the sub-programme Science with and for Society (SwafS), as chair from its creation
(Spring 2014 to end of 2015), and, since then as vice-chair. He describes the lack of clarity about what RRI is supposed to be within expert advisory meetings, before opening up a candid discussion about the open ended nature of the concept of RRI and raising the 'clothes for the emperor' issue and questioning the future of RRI within Brussels.

The author offers several concrete examples of the problem of implementation, and an appendix of useful documents.

Interested readers can look back upon Volume 2 and back to the first year of the journal through a series of posts available through the website here [5].

Submissions for the Journal are always welcome in various formats, from Perspectives and Reviews to Research Articles. Full details can be found on the Journal website [6].


ALL THE REVIEWS of the Journal by Jonathan Hankins:

Volume 1 part 1 [7] / part 2 [8] / part 3 [9]

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

Volume 3 part 1 [12] / part 2 [13] / part 3 [14]

Volume 4 part 1 [15]


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Journal of Responsible Innovation, Volume 3, Issue 3 Reviewed
Articles by:  Jonathan Hankins
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