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Journal of Responsible Innovation, vol 6 issue 1 reviewed

by Jonathan Hankins [1], 5 June 2019

March of 2019 saw the release of Issue 1 of Volume 6 of the Journal of Responsible Innovation [2]. In this review we present an overview of the publication.

In his Editorial introduction: questioning inclusion in business, policy, and public values [3], Journal of Responsible Innovation Editor in Chief Erik Fisher describes how this issue 'brings together research inquiries into RI activities as they pertain to private, governmental, and civil society sectors'. As Fisher notes, this collection of articles, reviews and perspectives is particularly broad and interdisciplinary, reflecting the range and scope of ideas pertaining to RI across the spectrum of innovation practices, all of which comes to the fore in his summary of the publication.

The first of three research articles is Responsible innovation in business: a critical reflection on deliberative engagement as a central governance mechanism from Teunis Brand and Vincent Blok.

In this article the authors raise the question of whether (and to what extent) deliberative engagement with stakeholders (one of the keystones of RI practices as regular readers will know) is a suitable approach in business. They first provide background to the question before discussing some of the issues and tensions that arise when the ideals of inclusivity and deliberation are applied to the governance of innovation within businesses, before discussing their places in business ethics.

The authors raise several points regarding critical issues around deliberative engagement for business, including tension between deliberative engagement and innovative capacity, knowledge sharing and competitive advantage and between inclusive governance and current corporate governance structures. They then situate deliberative engagement within different theories of business ethics.

A discussion section follows within which possible directions are outlined. The proposals of on the one hand maintaining the ideal of deliberative engagement and on the other of modifying the ideal of deliberative engagement are debated, before the authors conclude by urging scholars in the field of RI to take the tensions that come with applying RI to business into account and work upon in a consistent manner.

The second research article is The role of civil society organisations in European responsible research and innovation by Petra Ahrweiler, Nigel Gilbert, Benjamin Schrempf, Barbara Grimpe and Marina Jirotka.

This article is of particular interest to the Foundation as it addresses the role that civil society organization such as the Bassetti Foundation play in EU funded research. As regular readers will know, the Foundation participates in several large EU projects in roles that help to underpin and support its mission to promote responsibility in innovation.

After an introduction, the authors present a literature review on the roles that CSO's play in the research process, divided into a series of subsections based upon their findings. They open with the problem that the category od CSO is poorly defined before moving on to analyze EU policy expectations and drawing up a series of questions:

(1) What is the motivation for project consortia to include CSOs as partners? What do they expect to be their specific contribution? (2) How homogenous are organizations classified as CSOs? Do they obtain a unique and consistent role in project consortia? (3) Are CSOs indeed the main or only drivers of RRI within projects?

In order to begin to answer these questions the authors offer a methods and data section before describing the results obtained from a mixture of quantitative and qualitative approaches. They summarize the findings to the questions above as the following:

Firstly, the motivation to include CSOs as partners in consortia is only partly driven by an expectation that they will provide RRI competence, and much more by the expectation that they can contribute specific scientific capabilities and expertise not provided by other types of actor. Secondly, organisations classified as CSOs are highly diverse, their roles in the research consortia are multi-faceted, and extant definitions of CSO are difficult to apply consistently. Thirdly, rather than CSOs being the main or only drivers of RRI within projects, other consortium partners often have an equal or greater role.

The article closes with a discussion section in which the authors conclude that the RRI contribution made by CSO's is less than imagined by the European Commission before offering some suggestions for policy change that might help to address this gap.

The third and final Research paper in this issue is Are attitudes toward labeling nano products linked to attitudes toward GMO? Exploring a potential 'spillover' effect for attitudes toward controversial technologies by Heather Akin, Sara K. Yeo, Christopher D. Wirz, Dietram A. Scheufele, Dominique Brossard, Michael A. Xenos and Elizabeth A. Corley.

The authors raise the question of whether citizens' attitudes toward a more familiar technology correlate with their attitudes toward a newer one, such that they may be anchoring their attitudes about the more novel technology to the more established one.

As the article develops, the authors introduce a sub-series of research questions, evaluating and describing each as they appear:

RQ1: How is attention to media coverage of the ELSI of emerging technologies related to support for labeling products containing nanotechnology?
RQ2: Are perceptions of GMOs' risks related to support for labeling nanotechnology products?
RQ3: Are perceptions of GMOs' benefits related to support for labeling nanotechnology products?
RQ6: Does deference to scientific authority affect the extent to which risk perceptions of GMOs inform attitudes toward labeling products containing nanotechnology?
RQ7: Does deference to scientific authority affect the extent to which benefit perceptions of GMOs inform attitudes toward labeling products containing nanotechnology?

The authors introduce a series of hypotheses based upon these research questions, before moving on to explain the methods employed and describe the data collected, before a discussion of their findings. They find evidence of a spillover between attitudes expressed regarding the safety and benefits or problems posed by GM foodstuffs and those of nano-enabled products, raising the question of how far people could base their judgments about regulating nano-enabled products on their attitudes toward genetically modified organisms, rather than their knowledge of nanotechnology.

The Journal continues with an introduction to the Special Section on the responsible use of metrics that is included in this issue.

In Debating the responsible use of metrics:introduction to the special section [4], J. Britt Holbrook explains that the special section of perspectives that follows focuses on the use of metrics to assess the broader societal impacts of research, describing its historical development and possible problems before explaining that the perspectives that follow are the product of a National Science Foundation sponsored research workshop entitled 'Evaluating broader impacts: The state of the art,' held in Washington, DC in 2016.

The following overviews reflect the perspective pieces and in particular their abstracts.

The first perspective in the special section is For ethical 'impactology', in which Claire Donovan 'describes UK practice in assessing broader impacts, notes the rise of the profession of 'impactology' alongside the rise of academics' impact-fatigue, and notes that the two combined may lead us to commit 'metricide' by abandoning time-consuming impact narratives in favour of simple metrics. The paper concludes by considering what an ethical impactology might look like, and finds at its heart the responsible use and non-use of metrics'.

J. Britt Holbrook offers the second perspective with Designing responsible research and innovation to encourage serendipity could enhance the broader societal impacts of research. In this article the author argues that RRI should be conceived as a tool designed to afford creativity and freedom to researchers and others that can be used to enhance the broader societal impacts of research, and that designing RRI specifically to encourage serendipity is the best choice to achieve the goal of enhancing the broader societal impacts of research.

In his perspective piece The great impacts Houdini, Adam Briggle argues that the broader impacts conversation in research evaluation is designed to look like it addresses difficult questions about progress and the good life, whereas in fact it avoids them. In a very entertaining piece the author uses an analogy with the sword box used in the circus to describe how metrics bend round the body (science) when they are used.

In the final piece in the special perspectives section, Robert Frodeman offers The ethics of infinite impact. Froedman proposes the argument that RRI may be a cheat, in that it gives science the green light while looking like it is showing a flashing yellow. He demonstrates that the goals of the transhumanists (that some feel are beyond being taken seriously) are very similar to the goals of the broader research community; infinite, and that this cannot be seen as responsible.

A short pedagogy piece follows entitled Responsible innovation and education: integrating values and technology in the classroom in which Jennifer Richtera, Annie E. Halea and Leanna M. Archambaul argue that by explicitly acknowledging and incorporating responsible innovation (RI) into educational policies as well as into the classroom, RI can guide a new era of innovations in and for education.

The issue closes with two reviews, the first of which was written by the Foundation's Foreign Correspondent Jonathan Hankins. Hankins offers Responsible innovation: ethics, safety and technology, some personal thoughts on the MOOC an artickle that has previously been reviewed on the website [5] when it was first made available online.

The issue closes with a book review. In A comparative examination of the socio-political-moral lives of patents, Jessica C Lai reviews Patent politics: life forms, markets, and the public interest in the United States and Europe, by Shobita Parthasarath [6].

The book is about patent politics and deals with the complex issues around the patenting of life forms, including an analysis of the differences between the US and European systems, and the moral and political orders embedded in them. In the USA patents are seen as an economic tool, devoid of value judgements beyond those economic, but in Europe that are seen as 'a cog in a larger apparatus of regulation that addresses innovation, healthcare, the environment, morality and the concerns of civil society'. The corresponding laws may appear similar, but societies implement them in different ways.

The review closes with a critique of some of the author's arguments, before concluding that it is a book that is well worth its price.

Once again the Journal of Responsible Innovation offers a broad collection of papers and articles of the highest quality, several of which are open access publications. We congratulate all of those involved and recommend the issue to all of our readers.


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Links in this document:

  1. 1] /schedabiografica/Jonathan Hankins
  2. 2] https://www.tandfonline.com/toc/tjri20/current?nav=tocList
  3. 3] https://www.tandfonline.com/doi/full/10.1080/23299460.2019.1576017
  4. 4] https://www.tandfonline.com/doi/full/10.1080/23299460.2018.1511330
  5. 5] https://www.fondazionebassetti.org/en/focus/2018/08/responsible_innovation_ethics_.html
  6. 6] https://www.press.uchicago.edu/ucp/books/book/chicago/P/bo25338584.html
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Journal of Responsible Innovation, Vol 6, Issue 1
Articles by:  Jonathan Hankins
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