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Home > Focus > Journal of Responsible Innovation: Volume 7, Issue 1

Journal of Responsible Innovation: Volume 7, Issue 1

by Jonathan Hankins [1], 6 May 2020

The first issue of Volume 7 [2] of the Journal of Responsible Innovation is now available. Much of this issue is open access, offering readers some fantastic opportunities and high quality articles, ideal for whiling away the lockdown hours.

In his editorial piece Reinventing responsible innovation [3], Editor in Chief Erik Fisher describes recent developments within the field of RI and RRI, some more positive than others, including the following:

The Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development Council adoption of the OECD Recommendation on Responsible Innovation in Neurotechnology;
Australia's national science agency's upgrading its Responsible Innovation Initiative to become one of 11 Future Science Platforms;
The creation in the US of the Public Interest Technology University Network (PIT-UN);
A series of specialist conferences held in Germany sponsored by the Federal Ministry of Education and Research in addition to their newly formed Integrated Research Network;
The inclusion of the Journal of Responsible Innovation in the Social Sciences Citation Index by Clarivate Analytics, leading to it earning an impact factor for the first time in 2020;
The announcement of the launch of the Journal of Responsible Technology with its focus on 'a broad range of topics that are relevant to Responsible Research and Innovation in ICT'.

As a celebration of the Journal entering its seventh year of publication, this issue contains seven articles, five of which are open access, the first being Responsible innovation as empowering ways of knowing [4] from Govert Valkenburg, Annapurna Mamidipudi, Poonam Pandey and Wiebe E. Bijke.

This article is based on an 18-month long project that aimed to address the problem of onto-epistemological trust within a debate over the possible uses for rice straw in India. The authors address conflicting and incompatible ontologies and epistemologies from different types of farmers and players in the innovation and energy sector.
Their starting point is that different forms of knowledge (for example those of organic farmers, industrial farmers and engineers) can all be presented as rational even when those present in discussion have incompatible ontologies and epistemologies. This has implications for the discussion within RI about inclusion and the possibility of exclusion for non-fitting and contradictory epistemologies that come into contact with technological development proposals and projects.

The issue of the seemingly straightforward proposal to use rice straw for the production of biogas provides the background for an action-research case study that throws open an array of issues and questions that RI studies could and should address.

The second research article is closely related in that it also addresses the issue of different forms of knowledge and their integration into innovation scholarship and governance. In Traditional ecological knowledge in innovation governance: a framework for responsible and just innovation [5], David Ludwig and Phil Macnaghten offer an article with three specific aims:

To connect traditional ecological knowledge (TEK) to shifting meanings of innovation that emphasize its contribution to societal goals rather than to economic growth or technological modernization;
To demonstrate how an adapted AIRRmodel can provide a useful starting point for better incorporating TEK into innovation discourses;
To argue that current frameworks of responsible innovation provide helpful resources but also have limitations in negotiations of change in TEK.

Their goal is to contribute to governance frameworks designed for external actors who are impacting on traditional communities in direct ways but who commonly lack the resources for responding adequately to TEK.

The authors propose viewing innovation through a 'form of life' lens, describing how particular dimensions of responsible innovation frameworks ((A) anticipation, (I) inclusion, (R) reflexivity, and (R) responsiveness) can also be seen as forms of life. The authors then go on to introduce the idea of 'just innovation' as a complimentary concept for RI, describing how its integration bolsters the RI position in terms of its relationship to TEK, using a series of fascinating examples.

In their conclusion the authors summarize how 'the article provides a framework for innovation scholars to include more adequate representations of traditional communities as commonly marginalized stakeholders in change processes' and how 'a framework of both responsible and just innovation can build bridges from TEK to governance by taking the urgency of better policy seriously without neglecting its entanglement with wider social justice issues including struggles for representation and the conditions of change'.

The third research article is an entirely Dutch based offering and like the previous articles is also available open access. In The design and testing of a tool for developing responsible innovation in start-up enterprises [6], Thomas B. Long, Vincent Blok, Steven Dorrestijn and Phil Macnaghten explore the challenge of introducing responsible innovation into industrial start-ups in the agriculture, food and energy sectors.

The authors state that the aim of their research is to explore how RI principles could be integrated into the innovation processes of sustainability orientated start-ups. They develop and test a responsible management of innovation (RMoI) tool designed to provide innovators with a systematic way to identify and consider socio-ethical risks and opportunities. The Tool is applied to 12 cases, in order to explore the operationalization of RI in competitive industrial contexts.

After a literature review, the authors address the drivers and challenges for RI in competitive industrial contexts, before explaining their conceptual framework and methodology in depth.

In the results and discussion section, the authors first raise the question of to which extent their tool is able to identify socio-ethical issues, arguing that it was effective. Raising the issue of the extent to which the tool was able to implement the dimensions associated with RI, the authors describe generally positive but more diversified results, concluding however that the tool is able to aid the implementation of these dimensions.

In the section that follows, the authors raise the question of the extent to which the tool enables the learning of the RI dimensions. After considering the evidence, the authors conclude that the learning cycle could be completed, but in some cases was not.

The article concludes with a section describing lessons to be drawn from the experience and a call to expand this research.

The issue continues with a fourth article When desirability and feasibility go hand in hand: innovators' perspectives on what is and is not responsible innovation in health by Lysanne Rivard and Pascale Lehoux.

The aim of the research described in this paper is to gain insight and understanding of how professionals who design medical innovations perceiver RRI practices, addressing the following issues:

1. whether stakeholder involvement is part of a responsible practice;
2. whether businesses can behave responsibly;
3. whether innovations should adapt to health systems;
4. whether the environment matters in health innovation.

The article is divided into four sections. In the first, the authors summarize research gaps that structured their research design, before describing their methodology (section 2), presenting their findings (3) and the final concluding section in which they describe how 'health innovators generally agree on the desirability of several RIH principles, but highlight feasibility issues that impede their operationalization'.

After a brief overview of the (lack of) literature on the operationalization of RRI, the authors analyze RRI studies in the health sector, concluding that CEO's working in this sector consider their approaches to be aligned with RRI principles (section 1). They then move on to describe the Responsible Innovation in Health Framework and the methodology for their study (section 2), before presenting their findings (section 3).

The findings include the following:

Participants agree that stakeholder involvement is part of a responsible practice, knowing when, how many and how to involve them are key feasibility issues;
Most respondents saw a need for business models that prioritize health benefits over disproportionate profits for shareholders;
Though a number of interviewees considered that responsible innovations should seek to adapt to health systems, the feasibility of this aim is hampered by the demands of regulatory approval processes and the inertia that characterizes complex health system;
Though innovators recognize that human health is directly affected by the environment, diverse feasibility challenges surface when one tries to reconcile environmental concerns with health criteria and when established practices favor the use of disposables.

The discussion section follows which introduces section 4, in which the authors elaborate on the contribution that their study makes in addressing the two knowledge gaps described earlier in the paper; the lack of research on the way professionals who design innovations perceive and operationalize RRI in their practice and the limited understanding of the way businesses translate RRI concepts into their operations.

The authors discuss the implications for the study and its strengths and weaknesses, before a short concluding section in which they summarize their feelings that the 'study indicates that for RRI to be meaningfully implemented in the health sector, there is a need to clarify the trade-offs it entails and to solve key practical concerns by collaborating more closely with innovators. Putting RRI into practice may thus partly depend upon the ability of the RRI community to generate practice-oriented concepts and tools that can help to overcome the feasibility challenges faced by innovators. This would be aligned with the aspirations of the RRI field by supporting and eventually contributing to the transformation of innovators' practices'.

The fifth and final research article in this issue is The objects of technology assessment. Hermeneutic extension of consequentialist reasoning by Armin Grunwald.

In this paper the author reflects upon how recent developments in Technology Assessment (TA) within new and emerging sciences and technologies (NEST) have led to the need for the objects of TA to be assessed from a new perspective, one that moves beyond consequentialism. Grunwald identifies the societal meaning attached to new technologies as the core object of TA reasoning, bringing processes of the construction of their meaning within the field of TA.

Using his own hermeneutic circle model, the author demonstrates that assuming technology or its consequences are the objects of TA is insufficient or even misleading, arguing that the societal meaning attached to new technology is the real core object of TA.

This article is also divided into sections, the first offering an overview (above). Section 2 is dedicated to the crisis of consequentialism in technology assessment, describing the consequentialist paradigm and the problems in applying it to NEST.

Section 3 raises the issue of what then is to be assessed in TA given the crisis described above, before section 4 raises issues surrounding the processing of the societal meaning of technology in which he explains the hermeneutic circle, using several examples.

Section 5 is dedicated to drawing conclusions from the argument above for TA. This section contains 3 subsections: the role challenges TA is confronted with, (5.1), the implications of the hermeneutic extension for the Control Dilemma, (5.2), and the question of the carriers of societal meaning of technology (5.3).

Section 6 is the conclusion, Hermeneutic Knowledge in TA, in which the author offers a summary of the different forms of knowledge that are relevant as an extension to TA and RRI:

Prospective knowledge: anticipatory knowledge about possible future developments of socio-technical systems and constellations in the sense of the consequentialist approach.
Normative orientation: criteria of ethical evaluation, of social judgment or for legal assessments of new technology as a fundament for developing advice and knowledge for action.
Hermeneutic knowledge: knowledge about the respective context, e.g. about the motivations, diagnoses, perceptions, values, attitudes and interests of actors, and about the contemporary messages of future narratives processed in hermeneutic circles etc.

'This demonstrates the epistemic diversity which has to be processed by TA in its assessment procedures when considering the societal meaning assigned to new technology as its object. Hence, the crisis of consequentialism has not induced a crisis in technology assessment, usually thought of as dealing with the consequences of technology. Rather, that crisis has fueled a conceptual renewal and expansion of TA.'

The issue continues with a review, which is also open access, Synthesizing an implementation framework for responsible research and innovation [7] by Aafke Fraaije and Steven M. Flipse.

The review opens with a rationale for its production and the research that lies behind it, namely the need for an analysis of the various 'dimensions of RI and RRI that have appeared in the literature in recent years.

The review continues with a methodology section, before a five-part Framework Development section explains the process and framework itself via the (interlinked) qualifiers adopted; transparency, inclusion, reflexivity, anticipation and responsiveness. Each is presented via a rationale and followed with an implementations section.
General recommendations for the implementation of multiple dimension processes follow, before a section in which three product qualifiers found in the literature are described (societal relevance including acceptability and desirability, market competitiveness and scientific quality) before a discussion and conclusion.

This issue concludes with an open access Perspectives piece Meaningful collaboration for responsible innovation [8] by Katharina Jarmai and Heike Vogel-Pöschl.

This perspective piece recounts the proceedings and findings of a 75 min workshop at the European Science Open Forum (ESOF) in Toulouse, France in June 2018 that aimed to address the question of what makes collaboration meaningful in the sense of responsible innovation.

After an overview of the workshop, the authors present their position on collaboration as an essential element of responsible innovation before describing success factors and challenges for meaningful collaboration within RI.

Success factors are summarized in groups: transparency, including clarity of roles and power or spheres of influence on both sides; mutual understanding, development of a common language and understanding; contextual factors, civil society pressure, (economic) incentives and (expected) reputational gains; basic company strategic orientation, engagement with societal values, the aim to include diverse perspectives in collaboration, a participatory, bottom-up approach to collaboration as well as the objective to take action in order to achieve actual change.

Challenges are summarized in a similar way: differences between the collaborating parties, in context and also communication; distribution of power in the collaboration process, impact and outcomes of working together; generic business constraints, time constraints, budget and market limitations; recruitment, finding and incentivizing participants.

In the conclusion, the authors highlight the need for time to invest in the process preparation, briefing and follow up, and above all to create a trusting relationship which relies on mutual understanding of perspectives. They conclude that collaboration will only become meaningful if its outcome has not been determined beforehand by only one of the collaborating parties.

Once again, the Journal of Responsible Innovation offers a broad range of high-quality articles both freely available and upon payment, and we urge our readers to take a look.

The Bassetti Foundation offers its congratulations to all the contributors and editorial board.


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  1. 1] /schedabiografica/Jonathan Hankins
  2. 2] https://www.tandfonline.com/toc/tjri20/7/1?nav=tocList
  3. 3] https://www.tandfonline.com/doi/full/10.1080/23299460.2020.1712537
  4. 4] https://www.tandfonline.com/doi/full/10.1080/23299460.2019.1647087
  5. 5] https://www.tandfonline.com/doi/full/10.1080/23299460.2019.1676686
  6. 6] https://www.tandfonline.com/doi/full/10.1080/23299460.2019.1608785
  7. 7] https://www.tandfonline.com/doi/full/10.1080/23299460.2019.1676685
  8. 8] https://www.tandfonline.com/doi/full/10.1080/23299460.2019.1633227
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