As mentioned in a previous post, this year’s Annual Meeting of the Virtual Institute for Responsible Innovation (VIRI) was held in Szeged in Hungary. The event was hosted by the First Hungarian Responsible Innovation Association EMFIE and as a founding institutional affiliate member the Bassetti Foundation once again participated.
Foreign Correspondent Jonathan Hankins was present, documenting his recent PhD experience and work on the relationship between aesthetics and beauty, a topic of investigation that has developed within the Foundation over several years (see the posts on Innovating with Beauty for an overview).
The event started with a guided tour of the city, followed by a welcome from Erik Fisher on behalf of the VIRI organization and then by Miklòs Lukoviks of EMFIE. The VIRI has once more expanded this year with the Australian National University joining the network. Participants came from across Europe (alongside the USA and Australia contingent) so a round of introductions was needed, leading to cross table conversation and relationship building.
These introductions were followed by the first panel, presented by early career researchers.
Hankins was first to present his recent PhD research on the relationship between aesthetics and responsibility. He used his experience working within a furniture restoration workshop in the UK to argue that responsibility practices develop through the participation within a community of practice, following on with examples taken from his fieldwork in science laboratories in the Netherlands as displaying similar traits and structures.
Nikoletta Nadas of EMFIE followed with a presentation of research carried out on the role that science education plays in developing responsibility. As readers will know science education is considered a pillar of RRI within the European union, an issue addressed as Nàdas described an experimental project whose aim was to compare the effectiveness of two different approaches; the frontal lesson to large groups and the project’s D-Stir approach involving small groups of students.
Cian O’Donovan closed the early career researcher panel presentations by addressing the question of whether those working in digital fabrication technologies (typically within Makerspaces) gained wellbeing from the experience. This question is born from the suggestion that these types of organizational work settings may produce uplift for those participating through the development of new forms of governance, agency and community experience, with O’Donovan mapping what he describes as capabilities, or ways these situations might be able to produce positive wellbeing effects.
After a short break, Erik Fisher, Sujatha Raman, Tsjalling Swierstra and Armin Grunwald contributed within a panel discussion whose aim was to reflexively assess the field of RRI. In a highly informative and entertaining debate the panelists drew upon their experiences to outline what they see as the accomplishments, limitations and prospects for RRI.
A social dinner closed the day, with participants engaging in learning some Hungarian phrases and pronunciation, a song and a magic trick, all accompanied by traditional music, food and drink.
jó volt! as they say in Szeged.
Day two was dedicated to senior researcher presentations and a workshop on self driving car technology.
The morning was opened by Armin Grunwald who presented his views and perspective on Technology Assessment (TA), a close relative and foundational idea for RI. He presented what he describes as the trinity of TA, arguing that the development of TA is still ongoing and describing similarities and differences between TA and RI both in terms of their backgrounds and their objectives and aims.
Tsjalling Swiersta continued the morning with a description of current developments involving RRI in the Netherlands. He described the work of the NWO (Dutch Research Organization) and its operating concept of MVI (Societally Responsible Innovation) offering an insight into one of the most developed RRI related research structures currently in place.
Sujathra Raman closed the first panel session with a presentation of RRI practices within the Australia context. She offered a critical description of the RRI conversation to date, arguing that the focus had very much been on innovation with the problem of responsibility underrepresented, before raising the issue of other problems that have not yet been fully investigated.
The second Senior Researcher panel began with a presentation from Hannot Rodrìguez. Rodrìguez argued that in order to obtain more robust decision-making procedures we need to have broader ideas of what futures might hold in order to work towards better and broader future scenario building and anticipation. He argued that it is not the scenario itself that is important but the conditions in which futures are constructed, arguing the need to analyze the relationships between the concepts that are used to create these futures.
The panel continued with Christine Aicardi’s description of the Human Brain Project. Aicardi described the project aims and operation structure and attempts to create a Europe-wide neuroscience research infrastructure through which brain inspired computing and medicine developments could be carried out. Her presentation offered an insider’s perspective on both the successes and problems faced within such a huge project.
Discussion over lunch centred around the future of RRI, with different insights offered from a variety of professional perspectives. Brexit, the changes in EU funding brought about by the end of the Horizon 2020 call and the China factor (adoption of the concept by the Chinese government for the coming five-year plan) were all discussed.
The afternoon began with a provocative workshop on self-driving technology problem solving led by city development expert Béla Kézy. Kézy offered what some participants would consider a stylized or possibly utopian image of the future that self-driving vehicles might offer society, before asking the participants to first imagine some of the design problems faced by such a vision before then providing some solutions.
The problems developed were not strictly design in nature however (given the participants) leading Kézy to say that these were not the typical types of problems that he is presented with in his work. The unproblematized nature of his presentation irritated some of the participants, but it certainly made those present aware of how such powerful narratives have been unproblematically accepted by some in the broader society.
After a short break VIRI members gave short presentations on EU projects that they were involved in.
Péter Kakuk presented the SMART-Map project (readers will know the project as the Bassetti Foundation is a key member), Biborka Janaky-Bohner presented the Danube Framework for RRI using the D-STIR methodology linked above, and Beàta Udvari presented the ROSIE project and its focus on SMEs in Central Europe (that the Foundation also participates in).
The meeting closed with a discussion about further collaborations and the first steps in planning for next year’s meeting.
All at the Foundation are looking forward the 2019 meeting and to continuing our collaboration with such an interesting group over the coming year.