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Home > Focus > Journal of Responsible Innovation, Vol6, Issue 2: A Review

Journal of Responsible Innovation, Vol6, Issue 2: A Review

by Jonathan Hankins [1], 2 October 2019

This the second issue of Volume 6 of the Journal of Responsible Innovation [2] opens with an editorial from Editor in Chief Erik Fisher entitled Difficulty and doability enacting responsible innovation, in which the author describes how this issue 'offers an engaging set of discussions on the implementation, application, translation and scaling of responsible research and innovation', before offering an overview of the five research articles, three perspective pieces and a review of the recently released International Handbook on Responsible Innovation [3].

The first research article is Considering expert takeovers in citizen involvement processes by Petteri Repo and Kaisa Matschoss. In this interesting and entertaining piece, the authors address the problem of accomplishing responsible citizen involvement in innovation in a system in which the transition from citizen contribution to policy is affected by the involvement of expert groups that make decisions on how to prioritize and develop contributions arising more directly from citizen participation.

Through a statistical analysis based on a case study of the European CASI project, the authors show how post expert involvement priorities differ from those directly generated through public engagement, as experts seem to favour more technically oriented visions over those more societally framed. This seems to raise the issue of expert takeover of citizen contribution and the problem of its use as a policy justification. This adjustment of priorities is seen as something that should be combatted in any move towards a responsible innovation system, as it risks instrumentalizing public participation.

In A retrospective analysis of responsible innovation for low-technology innovation in the Global South, Sarah Hartley, Carmen McLeod, Mike Clifford, Sarah Jewitt and Charlotte Ray describe how the defecit model of public engagement presents a barrier to low technology innovation, very much as it does in high technology innovation.

The article describes a retrospective analysis of research carried out across Southern Africa into the uptake of cleaner stoves for cooking. The authors analyze the way the four dimensions of the AREA RI framework could be operationalized in the project studied, showing how anticipation, reflection, engagement and action could have all led to project improvement.

The authors conclude that the typical top down approach to the introduction of any innovation (be that high or low technology) fails in many ways, as it does not incorporate the cultural understandings and implications involved with such change.

The third research article is Limits of decentered governance in science-society policies by Heidrun Åm. In this article the author 'addresses the practices of implementing science policies that involve science-society relations, such as funding policies on ethical, legal, and social aspects (ELSA) and Responsible Research and Innovation (RRI)'.

The author's analysis draws on data generated in two projects: 'Performing ELSA. Governance of and governmentality in nano- and biotechnology research [PERFORME]' and collaborative research in the 'Center of Digital Life Norway (DLN).

Unfortunately the author concludes that the current approach to engaging scientists in the RRI debate does not work correctly as the scientists themselves tend to address the issue while writing their proposals or concluding their projects but that it does not permeate the research itself. The author suggests that this problem is due to a 'failure of meta-governance. That is, policy makers do not sufficiently accommodate science-society policies within competing logics of the various governing regimes, such as professional, institutional, and funding regime'.

The issue continues with Responsible innovation by social entrepreneurs: an exploratory study of values integration in innovations by Rob Lubberink, Vincent Blok, Johan van Ophem and Onno Omta.

The authors propose a new approach to responsible innovation in a business context based on a synthesis of empirically informed strategies derived from case studies in social innovation. They touch upon many topics that are very close to those of interest to the Foundation, taking a more de-facto or bottom up perspective and a broader interpretation of the RI field than is often seen.

The article concludes that many social enterprises integrate multiple rights, principles and freedoms that cover multiple categories within the European Charter of Fundamental Rights and Grand Challenges raising the question of how much they reflect and represent responsible innovation ideas and models.

In Anticipating risks, governance needs, and public perceptions of de-extinction, Rene X. Valdez, Jennifer Kuzma, Christopher L. Cummings and M. Nils Peterson describe a project in which they surveyed experts from a host of (interlinked) disciplinary backgrounds on opinions around issues related to de-extinction research.

This is a very entertaining piece for the Jurassic Park Generation with the role of science fiction cropping up throughout the article. Issues such as governance, risk versus benefits, technological optimism as a threat to conservationism and social impacts are all addressed with the general findings that experts are pessimistic about the development of such technologies, that are generally seen as more problematic than positive.

The Journal continues with a perspective piece Governing crowd-based innovations: an interdisciplinary research agenda, in which Eefje Cuppen, Bram Klievink and Neelke Doorn present an interdisciplinary research agenda to address normative challenges for governing crowd based innovations, calling for an integrated empirical-normative approach.

The agenda is based upon three points: Empirical research is needed to understand public values such as legitimacy, fairness, quality and efficiency; governing CBIs implies making value trade-offs which requires explicit normative attention; institutional (re)design requires empirical and normative research into questions about the desirable allocation of institutional responsibilities.

The issue continues with a further perspective piece. In 'Techlash', responsible innovation, and the self-regulatory organization, Thomas A. Hemphill proposes an 'alternative private ordering approach to incorporating responsible innovation' in the form of the self-regulating organization (SRO).

The piece goes on to describe the necessary structures and tools that such an approach might require if it is to follow a responsible innovation approach.

The perspectives section closes with The importance of the democratic and multidirectional exchange of values between scientists, STEM educators, and historically underrepresented members of the community from Bradley G. Lusk, an argument that is beautifully expressed through the perspective abstract.

ABSTRACT: In the 21st century, conversations regarding responsible research and innovation (RRI) place a strong emphasis on the need for inclusion of historically underrepresented communities in the science, technology, engineering, and math (STEM) disciplines. However, many of the current methodologies for integration with STEM require members of underrepresented communities to gain representation via metrics which assess progress in an institutionalized or university setting. This form of STEM integration is exclusive rather than inclusive because it insists that underrepresented community members participate in institutionalized science to acquire representation. Alternatively, members of underrepresented communities require more diverse avenues through which to participate in science. Diversifying the opportunities for underrepresented communities to contribute offers increased potential for the democratic, equitable, and multidirectional exchange of values between scientists, STEM practitioners, and members of underrepresented communities.

The Issue closes with a review by Robert Frodeman of the International Handbook on Responsible Innovation edited by Rene von Schomberg and myself Jonathan Hankins.

Given the size of the volume, Frodeman choses to 'emphasize the history and importance of the topic of RI, identify a few central themes, dip into a few essays, and pose a couple challenges to the volume and to field in general'.

After outlining the Handbook's strengths and an analysis of some of the points raised in Von Schomberg's chapter, the reviewer moves on to raise some proposals for addition to the debate and challenges faced in the field. The challenges include raising the issue of the lack of clear definition between the concepts of Responsible Innovation (RI) and that of Responsible Research and Innovation (RRI), and the need to raise the question of the value of innovation and whether it is actually necessary.

Once again Editor in Chief Erik Fisher has assembled a broad array of high quality articles, several of which are available on open access, and we recommend the issue to our readers.


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  1. 1] /schedabiografica/Jonathan Hankins
  2. 2] https://www.tandfonline.com/toc/tjri20/6/2?nav=tocList
  3. 3] https://www.fondazionebassetti.org/tags/The%20International%20Handbook%20on%20Responsible%20Innovation
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Journal of Responsible Innovation, Vol6, Issue 2: A Review
Articles by:  Jonathan Hankins
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