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Home > Focus > Volume 9, Issue 1 of the Journal of Responsible Innovation Reviewed

Volume 9, Issue 1 of the Journal of Responsible Innovation Reviewed

by Jonathan Hankins [1], 15 September 2022

Volume 9 [2] opens with Erik Fisher's Editorial Engaging with societal challenges in responsible innovation [3], in which the Editor in Chief describes how the issue considers some of the ways in which grand societal challenges have been invoked, framed, and addressed by scientific researchers, university administrators, global actors, and the responsible research and innovation (RRI) community itself.

Fisher explains that there is an emphasis in this issue on processual dimensions of responsible innovation to address trade-offs and keep options open in his overview and description of each piece, while as eclectic as ever he demonstrates not only his academic but also his musical expertise.

In first research article What's wrong with global challenges? [4] David Ludwig, Vincent Blok, Marie Garnier, Phil Macnaghten and Auke Pols examine how responses to challenges such as climate change, food security and public health are addressed by governance actors.

The article opens with an explanation of why Grand Challenges are wicked (rather than tame) problems, explaining how their construction as tame challenges may narrow approaches to addressing them (which are seen as problems to be solved) and enforce the narratives of the major players in the fields.

The authors describe research conducted on both national and international levels, finding evidence of two types of strategy, the first aimed at finding solutions to challenges (and which tends to present the responses of dominant actors as solutions) and the second based upon negotiation (which tend to open debate around the challenge itself).

Ludwig and colleagues find that the solution strategy dominates across levels, leading them to question whether such approaches are adequate to the task as they are often coupled to 'solutions' proposed by dominant actors.

The issue continues with Co-creation in support of responsible research and innovation: an analysis of three stakeholder workshops on nanotechnology for health [5] by Sikke R. Jansma, Anne M. Dijkstra and Menno D.T. de Jong.

In their paper, the authors explore the potential role of co-creation in fostering RRI by analysing three co-creation activities with different types of stakeholders in the area of nanotechnology and health, opening with a description of the rationale and business and policy origins of co-creation before bringing in the research and innovation context.

Co-creation can be seen as a way of creating meaning and value through a business's relationship with its customers, both directly through the co-creation process and any resulting product improvements, while in public policy contexts, co-creation can be seen as an intensive type of citizen participation that involves active collaboration between policymakers and citizens on specific policy issues. The concept seems very close to that of RRI and is described in relation to the 4 well known dimensions of RRI and the European Commission's aims to democratize innovation.

The authors then move on to describing their research and analysis of how co-creation can support RRI and lead to legitimacy and more robust innovations, before presenting their findings through an analysis based upon the RRI dimensions. They conclude that the design of the co-creation methodology influences how it supports the different RRI dimensions of reflexivity, inclusion, anticipation, and adaptation, with a trade-off found between creating legitimacy and creating added value, suggesting a focus on one specific aim.

Innovation and equality: an approach to constructing a community governed network commons [6] from Rider W. Foley, Olivier Sylvain and Sheila Foster describes efforts in Harlem to address problems associated with the digital divide through a collaborative approach to networked computing. Two central theories - responsible innovation and co-governance - inform the project and offer scaffolding for the research approach.

After a theoretical and methodological description, the authors describe their case study, before offering two possible governance models for the implementation of a community-based internet sharing system.

The data offered in this article is eye-opening, and would offer a lot of support for arguments posited by Rene' von Schomberg and others about the failings of a market approach for innovation systems. The article closes with some reflections on power relations and difficulties in partnering with organizations that seem to use different metrics to measure their achievements and goals.

The issue continues with Nanoscientists' perceptions of serving as ethical leaders within their organization: Implications from ethical leadership for responsible innovation [7] from Won-Ki Moon and Lee Ann Kahlor.

During their introduction the authors describe their aims, approach and define their concepts (including that of ethical leadership) before offering their research question: How do scientists who work at the nanoscale think about ethical leadership and their own leadership role related to responsible research innovation? And in particular one question: 'How might you be (or become) an ethical leader?'

Using a qualitative approach, the researchers are able to define 5 types of ethical leadership, each described in depth with a host of considerations about context and position taken into account. Discussion includes how to foster an ethical environment (not relying on top down or rule following approaches for example), how scientists actually perceive the concept of ethics, and the implications of their findings.

The article closes by recommending three major aims for ethical leadership education for scientists and researchers; that ethical leadership training should emphasize the role that individuals can play within their organizations when they serve as ethical leaders; training should emphasize numerous flexible leadership strategies; and it must also include the social impact of the scientist beyond their own organization.

In The uses of grand challenges in research policy and university management: something for everyone [8], Anita Välikangas illustrates the flexibility and usefulness of grand challenges for university rectorates and project leaders when communicating with policy makers, research funders, and local industries and companies.

After an analysis of the use of the concept of grand challenges and a comparison to that of RRI, the author focusses on perception (of grand challenge) in Europe and the US offering a comparison of conceptual and practical use, before moving on to describe the analytical ideas of boundary objects and articulation work and their use in analyzing interaction between academic and non-academic communities.

The boundary objects and articulation work analysis is applied to research carried out in BizTech, a technical university, with analysis of grand challenges discourse described across several topics, groups, levels and timeframes.

Grand challenges discourse in business collaboration, multidisciplinarity and external research funding are analyzed, before a discussion of how the terms are used across the university by different actors and the advantages gained. The author concludes that if the aim of grand challenges is to have a wider societal relevance, it should be supplemented with more specified processual conditions or outcome-oriented measures.

A Perspective piece follows: Toward institutionalization of responsible innovation in the contemporary research university: insights from case studies of Arizona State University [9] from William B. Dabars and Kevin T. Dwyer.

As the abstract for this perspective succinctly outlines, the author describes how comprehensive organizational reconceptualization undertaken by Arizona State University (ASU) during the past two decades has been motivated in part by an explicit intent to institutionalize reflexive understandings of societal responsibility within a major public research university. In the process of operationalizing new models for the American research university, ASU embarked on an academic reorganization that institutionalized the conditions for responsible innovation. Indeed, this institutionalization proceeded contemporaneously with--and in some cases preceded--the systematic articulation of responsible innovation discourses by an international community of scholars. As a transformed and transformational institution, the case of ASU points to the need for research universities to rethink societal responsibility.

The issue closes with a discussion paper and a series of responses.

In Looking beyond the 'horizon' of RRI: moving from discomforts to commitments as early career researchers [10], Danielle Shanley, Joshua B. Cohen, Nicholas Surber and Shauna Stack present five areas of 'discomfort' that they have encountered whilst working in and around the RI/RRI community:

Hype; are we critical of the hype which we ourselves construct in order to get a seat at the table?

The public(s); the extent to which RI/RRI has collaborated meaningfully with affected publics remains questionable.

The bubble; internal debates jeopardize potential collaborations with communities that do not share a conceptual vocabulary, and what can be said for collaboration with allies within open science, citizen science and the responsible technology movement?

The politics; is the RI/RRI community engaging with the right kind of politics? Are we satisfied with RI/RRI as an institutional policy tool which promises to incrementally challenge the system? Or, if we desire more fundamental change, can and should this be pursued differently?

The message; how far do practices really go in helping to mainstream RI/RRI and in providing pathways towards institutional change?

Followed by five commitments:

Challenge assumptions; the community should use the 'end of RRI' as an opportunity to (re)policitize prevailing assumptions about responsibility and R&I.

Think about the mechanics of change; focus more on how we can contribute to actual processes of social change and develop more insights into ways in which the existing European R&I funding system and its institutions can be changed from within.

Expand our horizons; open up to other forms of collaboration, beyond the usual academic settings and project partners.

Foster cooperation and care; seek common ground with other approaches to ethics, societal engagement and gender equity within and beyond disciplinary traditions.

keep calm and carry on; remind ourselves that RI/RRI is not all as new as it purports to be, but part of a long lineage of efforts to 'responsibilize' science and technology while pushing for a renewed sense of pragmatism.

Jeroen van den Hoven responds in Responsibility and innovation [11], agreeing with some of the points while describing several aspects of the RRI paradigm whose importance should be recognized, including the multidisciplinarity the concept brought about and the move towards addressing innovation from a moral perspective.

In New horizons, old friends: taking an 'ARIA in six keys' approach to the future of R(R)I [12], Stevienna de Saille responds by applying the responsible stagnation analysis to RRI itself and raising the point that the R(R)I community may actually now be in a position to take control of its own future a little more than to-date.

The final response is Against bureaucrapitalism: a response to Shanley and colleagues [13] from Christopher Coenen, in which the author discusses the relationship of RRI to the military use of science and technology and emancipatory perspectives in its research fields.

Once again the JRI offers plenty of food for thought and the highest quality scholarship. We congratulate all of the authors and recommend the issue to our readers.


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  1. 1] /schedabiografica/Jonathan Hankins
  2. 2] https://www.tandfonline.com/toc/tjri20/9/1?nav=tocList
  3. 3] https://www.tandfonline.com/doi/full/10.1080/23299460.2022.2063910?scroll=top&needAccess=true
  4. 4] https://www.tandfonline.com/doi/full/10.1080/23299460.2021.2000130
  5. 5] https://www.tandfonline.com/doi/full/10.1080/23299460.2021.1994195
  6. 6] https://www.tandfonline.com/doi/full/10.1080/23299460.2022.2043681
  7. 7] https://www.tandfonline.com/doi/full/10.1080/23299460.2022.2043630
  8. 8] https://www.tandfonline.com/doi/full/10.1080/23299460.2022.2040870
  9. 9] https://www.tandfonline.com/doi/full/10.1080/23299460.2022.2042983
  10. 10] https://www.tandfonline.com/doi/full/10.1080/23299460.2022.2049506
  11. 11] https://www.tandfonline.com/doi/full/10.1080/23299460.2022.2050570
  12. 12] https://www.tandfonline.com/doi/full/10.1080/23299460.2022.2050592
  13. 13] https://www.tandfonline.com/doi/full/10.1080/23299460.2022.2055993
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Volume 9, Issue 1 of the Journal of Responsible Innovation Reviewed
Articles by:  Jonathan Hankins
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