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Home > Focus > Journal of Responsible Innovation, Vol. 7, issue 2 Reviewed

Journal of Responsible Innovation, Vol. 7, issue 2 Reviewed

by Jonathan Hankins [1] [2] [2], 26 August 2020

The second issue of volume 7 of the Journal of Responsible Innovation has just been published [2] [3] [3]. In this post we offer an overview of the publication with links to those articles offered open access (for details on the Journal's move to full open access see here [3] [4] [4]).

In his editorial Necessary conditions for responsible innovation [4] [5] [5], Editor in Chief Erik Fisher describes this issue as 'a meditation on social, methodological, and theoretical conditions with which any approach in the future to responsible innovation policy and practice will need to grapple'. Seen through the lens of the current COVID outbreak, Fisher describes how the various articles on offer address many of the pressing (and persistent) issues that a responsible innovation approach will have to deal with in the (soon to arrive) post-pandemic years.

The first research article is Responsible research and innovation: hopes and fears in the scientific community in Europe [5] [6] [6], from Martin Carrier and Minea Gartzlaff, in which they 'present empirical results from an interview study conducted among European researchers and research executives regarding their views on RRI'.

After an introduction to the concept of Responsible Research and Innovation, the authors offer a description of the difference between the concepts of science with society and science for society, based upon their interpretation of Rene von Schomberg's well known definition and position. The concept of Science for Society is interpreted as a more product-based approach, while Science with Society more process based.

The authors continue with a literature review that describes the historical findings that their project design rests upon, concluding that few studies have been done on investigating the views of research executives on RRI, even though those in other roles within the process may view the aims differently. This leads them into describing the study design and context, before moving on to a results section.

The results section offers an overview of the main perspectives and opinions expressed, with these comments put into generalized regional contexts. The discussion section that follows debates and contextualizes these positions further, describing hopes and worries associated with science with and for society taken from the research.

the public and especially stakeholders are assumed to be a source of worthwhile information about which kinds of research could produce socially beneficial or socially detrimental impact
one asset of bringing in stakeholders was obtaining additional funds from industry and policymakers
interaction with the general public primarily in terms of science communication
wider distribution of research results increases the sense of relevance of the projects in question and would thus contribute to support and additional funding

loss of autonomy
the general public was not sufficiently imaginative and would ask for research that had already been completed
stakeholders promote their own interests
Input could be overambitious
It may be difficult to judge basic science through standards of social relevance
Costs incurred through implementation

The article then compares the issues raised by researchers to those raised by executives, showing a lot of similarities but also some variation in perception, including some geographic. The articles is rounded off with a short conclusion section.

The issue continues with a further research article, Subtle voices, distant futures: a critical look at conditions for patient involvement in Alzheimer's biomarker research and beyond [6] [7] [7] by Karen Dam Nielsen and Marianne Boenink.

Based on an experiment involving patients in Alzheimer's disease biomarker research, the authors identify and reflect on two key conditions in patient involvement that they call 'subtle voices' and 'distant futures'. They first describe the research project, vision and early experiments with involving patients before developing two overall conditions for patient involvement; 'subtle voices' and 'distant futures'. These conditions are explained in practice before their methodological implications and broader relevance are discussed.

After an introduction to the concepts of voice and futuring, the article features a section in which the realities of involving people with cognitive issues is discussed, before the lay/expert divide is addressed followed by participatory hesitance. The discussion then moves on to describing how several characteristics of the treatment make it difficult to discuss, as well as the influence of changing horizons and perspectives on time.

The article then moves on to a discussion section, with the authors describing their main insights into voice and futuring and methodological implications drawn from the experience, before moving on to discuss the relevance of this research for the broader field of RI.

The authors plea for the following:

moderation in the call for participation in RI and related fields; the need for approaching participation as making voices rather than the 'simple' collection or strengthening of already existing voices; the need for RI scholars and practitioners to revisit the ambition of 'futuring' as anticipation, whether done through participation or by other means.

The article closes with a short conclusion that raises several questions related to meaningful public participation.

The issue's next research article Land use conflicts between biomass and power production - citizens' participation in the technology development of Agrophotovoltaics [7] [8] [8] is by Daniel Ketzer, Nora Weinberger, Christine Rösch and Stefanie B. Seitz.

In their introduction, the authors describe the current biomass, agrophotovoltaic and photovoltaic power production situation in Germany, before explaining the objective of the research, which is to identify and analyze the perceptions and expectations of citizens towards Agrophotovoltaics (APV) in the deliberative format.

The article continues with a methodology section, before moving on to a results section followed by a discussion.

To summarize, a workshop format was followed, divided into three sections: Group discussion, classification into categories of topics raised and world café. The results were then qualitatively analyzed.

The results are provided in a table with a short discussion description of each of the topics raised:
(1) APV and the energy transition; (2) APV and the landscape; (3) APV and the profiteers; (4) APV and the politics; (5) APV and agriculture; (6) APV and environmental sustainability; (7) APV and the regulatory framework

The results section opens with a series of broad recommendations related to local and glocal understandings of the issues at question, before moving on to discuss the findings and make recommendations related to APV and the environment (landscape and biodiversity), APV and the business model, APV and regulation and APV and participation.

A short but extremely valuable and concise conclusion closes the article.

The fourth research article in this issue is Creating relevant knowledge in transdisciplinary research projects - Coping with inherent tensions [8] [9] [9] by Andrea Schikowitz.

In this article the author investigates how researchers who were engaged in the Austrian research program proVISION made sense of 'societal relevance' and how they made it do-able in practice, based on the premise that 'despite considerable political and scholarly effort and support, the numerous initiatives and programs devoted to produce 'societally relevant knowledge' often yield rather conventional scientific output'.

The article opens with a discussion on relevant knowledge for societal challenges, suggesting that 'the best way to understand the barriers to realising all the well-designed and well-meant initiatives might not be found on a conceptual level, but rather in research practice itself and in paying attention to the ways researchers translate and realise policy concepts and funding requirements in practice and how they deal with tensions that they encounter'.

The article focusses on transdisciplinary research and its relationship to the production of knowledge about the 'grand challenges, exploring how tensions between different demands are handled in practice and how researchers try to align 'societal relevance' and 'scientific relevance' within research projects.

Different types of knowledge from different groups and from different fields (policy, practical or scientific) are discussed, as are the tensions arising between these different forms, before modelling techniques are described.

The article then moves on to a discussion section in which the author discusses the influence of modeling and the imposition of quantitative research techniques on qualitative data, before discussing some conclusions for research funding.

The fifth and final research article is Innovation, value-neutrality and the question of politics: unmasking the rhetorical and ideological abuse of evolutionary theory [9] [10] [10] by Theo Papaioannou.

Taking Schumpeter as a starting point, the author raises a series of questions related to competing interpretation of the roles of politics within innovation:

Can the theory of innovation be value neutral? Can the social and political context of innovation systems be ignored? What is the impact of value neutrality on effective integration of the systems concept with historical and political accounts of innovation?

After the introduction, section 2 addresses the value neutrality divide within the neo-Schumpetarian approach to innovation starting from the systemic and evolutionary aspects of Schumpeter's work, before section 3 addresses the question of politics and value and power conflicts in innovation. This is a fascinating analysis that very much reflects many of the conversations and discussions held in the Bassetti Foundation.

The following section explores the importance of history and context. The author proposes the redefinition of emerging patterns of technological development as historical and contextual,revealing the political nature of innovation for development while debunking the myth of universal values and institutions.

The conclusion offers answers to the series of questions posed early in the article: Neither innovation can be value neutral nor can innovation systems be abstracted from their value laden contexts, a conclusion that I think many working within RI and RRI would agree with.

The issue closes with a book review: Reinventing Hoodia: peoples, plants, and patents in South Africa [10] [11] [11] by Laura A. Foster is reviewed by Monamie Bhadra Haines.

The reviewer's analysis answers her own question that scholarship and practice in responsible innovation can indeed benefit from a feminist decolonial techno-scientific analysis, as amply demonstrated by this book.

Once again the Journal of Responsible Innovation offers an array of perspectives and approaches, we congratulate the authors, editorial team and publisher once more and recommend this issue to all of our readers.


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  1. 1] /en/focus/2020/08/journal_of_responsible_innovat_18.html
  2. 2] /schedabiografica/Jonathan Hankins
  3. 3] https://www.tandfonline.com/toc/tjri20/7/2?nav=tocList
  4. 4] https://www.fondazionebassetti.org/en/focus/2020/07/journal_of_responsible_innovat_17.html
  5. 5] https://www.tandfonline.com/doi/pdf/10.1080/23299460.2020.1774105
  6. 6] https://www.tandfonline.com/doi/full/10.1080/23299460.2019.1692571
  7. 7] https://www.tandfonline.com/doi/full/10.1080/23299460.2019.1676687
  8. 8] https://www.tandfonline.com/doi/full/10.1080/23299460.2019.1647085
  9. 9] https://www.tandfonline.com/doi/full/10.1080/23299460.2019.1653154
  10. 10] https://www.tandfonline.com/doi/full/10.1080/23299460.2019.1605484
  11. 11] https://www.tandfonline.com/doi/full/10.1080/23299460.2020.1738025
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Journal of Responsible Innovation, Vol. 7, issue 2 Reviewed
Articles by:  Jonathan Hankins
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