Recommendations for Investors

By SalM on July 30, 2020 in News


Based on the empirical insight gained through the survey and case studies, recommendations for different stakeholders about how to develop RRI-like practices while deriving a competitive advantage are provided below. First, recommendations for industry, which is the principal actor of competitive advantage at the micro level, are provided. These are followed by recommendations for the main actors of competitive advantage at the macro level: policymakers. Then, recommendations for supporting stakeholders that help to create the context in which RRI-like practices are developed are provided, with the aim of supporting their role in accompanying the principal actors in competitive advantage concerns, allowing for sustainable socio-economic development. These are recommendations for research performing organisations, research funding organisations, investors, civil society, and NGOs and association bodies.

Set of Recommendations for Investors

  1. Understand the benefits of RRI-like practices and how to overcome the barriers

For investors, it is important to understand what the benefits of RRI-like practices are in terms of market and financial performance. There are many ways in which RRI-like practices drive competitive advantage; mainly, being able to avoid noncompetitive regulation, increasing social acceptance, accessing new markets, increasing the efficiency of innovation and obtaining reputational effects. Mostly, the link between RRI-like practices and financial performance is not direct, as observed in both the survey and the case studies, but mediated by customer performance and reputational effects derived from engaging in such practices. Asking for risk assessment plans that include risks derived from the management of socio-ethical issues and how these will be hedged through RRI-like practices is advisable. Besides, engaging in RRI-like practices might also come with certain barriers (lengthening the innovation process, protection of intellectual property issues, lack of consumer awareness and other barriers derived from the institutional environments). It is important for the investor to understand the benefits of RRI-like practices for competitive advantage, but to also acknowledge the barriers and to assess, based on business plans, what actions the investee is adopting to overcome such barriers (if applicable to the project, domain and geography).

  1. Introduce social and environmental ROI in expectations

The inclusion of indicators of progress is linked to the need to understand return on investment from a triple-bottom line perspective. Even if RRI-like practices have shown to be a driver of competitive advantage in many contexts, sometimes through mediated relationships, (such as improving customer performance), there is  a call for the inclusion of environmental and social indicators of progress, adjusted to the project, in addition to the financial pay off of the investment, to ensure that the outcome dimensions of RRI-like practices are realised in sustainability performance. In addition, expectations about when to receive financial payoffs might need to be adjusted to longer research and innovation processes (derived from the inclusion of ethical state-gates) plus the potential mediating effects of customer performance on market and financial performance (although further, longitudinal research is needed on such mediated relationships).  The inclusion of such indicators on the social and environmental pay off would also help to ensure that the investee is following up with plans to introduce RRI-like requirements in the research and innovation processes and outcomes.

  1. Introduce ethical requirements relevant to context

As also noted for other stakeholders, it is very important to adapt the expectations of RRI-like practices in detail for the local environment. Even if the main procedural and outcome dimensions of RRI-like practices were observed throughout regions, the detail of practices was not, as well as the underlying societal values and need to be addressed. These varied in different geographies and domains and called for different application of RRI-like practices (as observed in the contrasting practices utilised by organisations in the bioeconomy and ICT cases, respectively). Consequently, it is important to develop ethical indicators that measure not only economic progress but also progress related to sustainable development and procedural dimensions of RRI-like practices that are well adapted to the organization and research and innovation project in terms of measuring how the investee is dealing with such issues.

RRI in the European Union and Scientific Social Responsibility (SSR) in India

By SalM on July 28, 2020 in News


Science, research, and innovation are central to the European strategy for smart, sustainable, and inclusive growth. In India, the Science Technology and Innovation (STI) system is tasked to deliver solutions to address the pressing national challenges of energy and food security, nutrition, affordable health care, environment, water and sanitation and employment. It is also argued that Indian society must emerge as the major stake holder for the national STI system. India’s STI-led developmental efforts should thus aim at faster, inclusive and sustainable growth.

The European Commission (EC), the governing body of the European Union, is committed to directing research toward expanding the scientific and technological base of the European economy and industry, fostering broader benefits for society and tackling the most pressing societal challenges of our time. In India, the government supports ‘inclusive innovation’ to ensure access, availability and affordability of solutions to as large a population as possible. One of the tactics taken by the EC to create and disseminate socially and economically beneficial knowledge and drive prosperity and social benefit for all is the cross cutting Horizon 2020 (H2020) commitment to Responsible Research and Innovation (RRI). In order to foster inclusive science and innovation, the Indian government recently proposed, and put up for public consultation, a policy for Scientific Social Responsibility in order to build synergies among all stakeholders in the Indian scientific knowledge community and also about developing linkages between science and society.

In the remainder of this brief we offer some of the findings of the NewHoRRIzon project commissioned to develop the conceptual and operational basis to better integrate RRI into European and national research and innovation (R&I) practice and funding—to initiate exchange between European and Indian stakeholder inclusive research and innovation policy. We would like to delineate opportunities and policy exchange possibilities for mutual learning for achieving smart, sustainable, and inclusive R&I/STI in both territories.

Key messages derived from the learning

  • RRI in the EU and & SSR in India have common foundations, aims and potential goals in making science and research better embedded in society;
  • Learnings from RRI in EU may be applied to inform policy implementation of SSR in India;
  • SSR principles and their application in policy may aid the development of RRI in the EU;
  • SSR and RRI may jointly assist in developing a global framework for responsible innovation (RI);
  • To foster these goals a joint Working Group (WG) comprising of researchers and policy makers from India and the EU to discuss and facilitate policy exchange between the respective territories in RRI and SSR is recommended.
  • The WG may collect and disseminate learning for both territories, such as ones recommended at this brief

To read more about the learning and recommendations in this policy brief made by the members of the NewHorrizon Project follow this link to the full document

Common standards to promote effective, responsible and creative science systems

By SalM on July 24, 2020 in News

A newly launched monitoring exercise aims to measure how well national science systems worldwide are doing on topics such as scientific freedom and open science, and the perspectives of researchers and scientific associations are crucial.

In 2017 the General Council of UNESCO adopted a Recommendation on Science and Scientific Researchers with the aim of setting common standards for the operation and values of effective science systems. A first monitoring exercise for the Recommendation is just getting under way, and gathering the views of scientists and scientific associations on how to achieve the best outcomes for science is a crucial part of the monitoring.

International Science Council spoke to April Tash, who is UNESCO’s lead specialist on the Recommendation, to find out more.

Read the whole interview here.

Dr April Tash is a programme specialist within the Department of Social Sciences at UNESCO. Dr Tash guided the adoption of the revised Recommendation on Science and Scientific Researchers in 2017, and is the lead for the Recommendation within UNESCO.

Source: International Science Council

Photo by Science in HD on Unsplash

Join RRING Community

By SalM on July 24, 2020 in RRING NEWS


Research Performing Organisations (RPO), Research Funding Organisations (RFO), Researchers and the industry representatives can be a part of a true community of practice to learn, share and apply. We can all work together as equals to shape the research and innovation ideas and visions.

RRING goals are to establish and cultivate country by country, a true community of practice to learn, share and apply our influence to achieve ever more responsibility and freedom in research and innovation.

This is a reason why we launched the RRING community. Our vision is to establish a welcoming community that stands for mutual learning and collaboration to promote and mobilize for responsibility and freedom in research and innovation in line with the Recommendation on Science and Scientific Researchers (2017).

Seven Key Guiding Principles of RRING Community for 6 years

RRING will be guided with reference to a global set of norms and standards agreed by 195 governments at UN level in order to capture a common ‘language’ for what has previously been referred to as RRI, and RRING will thus promote this common and global normative content across a variety of applications.

RRING will evolve and grow toward becoming a recognizable global networking community made up of local (or national) chapters, each of which will adopt and must adhere to the mission statement and goals of RRING.

RRING will ever maintain an ambitious social mobilization and behavioural change agenda for embedding certain norms of research (responsibility and others found in the RSSR) in practices everywhere, which may include working with public authorities at any level (local, national, regional or international) and also stands for high-quality research in line with RRING’s vision. Communicating is the action at the heart of actions to mobilize and promote and will be guided by the RRING Communications Strategy.

Community and learning actions will be the initial focus, until the chapter will define and agree by a vote of more than 2/3 of its members to its first activities plan. Each chapter will be routinely and regularly invited to contribute its advice and views, either as a chapter or by individual members, to assessments of norms and standards of the RSSR.

Aside from their input to the assessments, RRING collaboration and advocacy actions will consist exclusively of clearly defined activities, voted on, and appearing in a chapter’s agreed activities plan, because they should be vetted among all members of a chapter so as to be context-sensitive (the RRING Communications Strategy and its advice is also useful here). They must fall within the social mobilization and behavioral change agenda, yet may be selectively focused on any of the topical areas of responsibility found in the RSSR.

Activities may involve and/or address any or all of the institutions of a research and innovation ecosystem (many of which are identified in the RSSR) including the general public, youth, students, the media, industry, or the public authorities that make and apply public policies, and may selectively address influencers that can be recruited as champions of the agenda. Each chapter will be responsible for its own growth, recruiting, and financial sustainability, and administration. A short chapter report to RRING as a whole will allow each chapter to communicate across all of RRING its completed activities and actions, and its activities plan or other important updates and news.

RRING as a whole, even as it grows to be a network of chapters, will require adherence to the recommendations of one overall RRING Communications Strategy, which is integrally included in the present strategy by this reference

Research and innovation ideas and visions come from everywhere. When we connect the potential of the whole world, we can address the biggest challenges of this century.

Join Us!

Global Survey on Familiarity with Sustainable Development Goals

By SalM on July 23, 2020 in RRING NEWS

Under the leadership of our partners from ICoRSA a global survey was launched. The survey was open from 1 October 2019 to 20 December 2019.

Variables covered demographic Information such as: Age; Gender; Nationality; Native Language; Level of Education & Subject of Schooling; Location of Schooling & Professional Career; Time in current position of career. Five RRING World Regions were included in the analysis (following UNESCO regions of the world): European and North American States; Latin-American and Caribbean States; Asian and Pacific States; African States; Arab States.

The survey resulted in 2198 responses with a completion rate of 70% or more; 539 responses with a completion rate of less than 70%. The average completion rate of the survey was 97%. Respondents on average took 33 minutes to complete the survey.

What are the Sustainable Development Goals(SDGs)?

The Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), also known as the Global Goals, were adopted by all United Nations Member States in 2015 as a universal call to action to end poverty, protect the planet and ensure that all people enjoy peace and prosperity by 2030. The 17 SDGs are integrated—that is, they recognize that action in one area will affect outcomes in others, and that development must balance social, economic and environmental sustainability.

Through the pledge to Leave No One Behind, countries have committed to fast-track progress for those furthest behind first. That is why the SDGs are designed to bring the world to several life-changing ‘zeros’, including zero poverty, hunger, AIDS and discrimination against women and girls.

Results of the survey

Respondents from India reported much stronger familiarity with the SDGs than the global average. Indian respondents were also much more positive in their attitudes about the utility, relevance and value of SDGs. This indicates that these results may be very possible a very good basis for future development of Responsible Research and Innovation and that these things could be valuable, useful, central, relevant and beneficial for the development of this idea.

How familiar are you with the SDGs?

[African=187, Arab=155, Asia & Pac=156, Eur & N. Am=1316, Lat. Am & Car=200, India=75]

  • Overall lowest familiarity with the SDGs are in the US
  • Highest familiarity about the SDGs in India
  • 41% respondents from Latin America are not at all familiar to the SDGs

Views on SDGs

Only displayed if respondent was at least “somewhat familiar” with the SDGs

Only displayed if respondent was at least “somewhat familiar” with the SDGs


Find the full report here.

Science, responsible research and innovation at the forefront of COVID-19

By SalM on July 22, 2020 in News

In the context of the COVID-19 pandemic, the Recommendation on Science and Scientific Researchers, adopted by the UNESCO General Conference in 2017, is a key instrument established to improve policies on science and scientific researchers while bringing countries closer to the complete realization of the human right to science.

As part of the RRING project (Responsible Research and Innovation Networking Globally), a virtual workshop was led by PRIA (Participatory Research In Asia), in close cooperation with UNESCO New Delhi, on 9 July 2020.

Panelists included — Dr Rajesh Tandon, Founder-President of PRIA, and co-chair of the UNESCO Chair in Community-based Research and Social Responsibility in Higher Education; Mr Juan Pablo Ramirez-Miranda, Programme Specialist and Chief of Section for Social and Human Sciences, UNESCO New Delhi;  Dr Anand Krishnan, Professor at the Centre For Community Medicine, The All India Institute of Medical Sciences; Dr Rashmi Rodrigues, Associate Professor, Department of Community Health, St. John’s Medical College, Bangalore;  and Mr Dinesh Sharma, Jawaharlal Nehru Fellow and Founding Managing Editor of India Science Wire.

Dr Tandon opened the webinar by describing challenges caused by the current pandemic and the critical importance of science. He highlighted the necessity to obtain vaccines and remedies as early as possible. He emphasized the importance of new forms of communication between scientists and the general public through Open Science.

Juan Pablo Ramirez-Miranda presented the Recommendation on Science and Scientific Researchers and described its main features on how it provides a global standard for all relevant stakeholders to frame developments in science. The Recommendation is designed to guide their approach from policy to practice. He further shared that the Recommendation, while ensuring the freedom of science and scientists, also focuses on the role of ethics and responsibility.

It was discussed that as signatories to the Recommendation, each of the 195 nations (including India) are required to produce a first report on how public administrations are applying the principles of the Recommendation, by 31 March 2021.  The report should analyze the national science systems on different issues such as the freedom of scientists, or the inclusivity in STEM education schools, among other key areas.

The final session of the discussion included interventions from Dr Anand Krishnan, Dr Rashmi Rodrigues, and Mr Dinesh Sharma on the topic of Open Science. They recognized the importance of not only sharing data to promote open science, but also the need to develop national policies promoting transparency and accountability. Panelists also emphasized how crucial it is to strengthen institutional mechanisms to initiate a dialogue between all stakeholders, particularly during the pandemic.  In this context, the role of science communicators and journalists can be central in bridging the gap between scientists and the general public by ensuring a flow of accurate and easy to understand information.

Recommendations for Policy Makers

By SalM on July 21, 2020 in News


Based on the empirical insight gained through the survey and case studies, recommendations for different stakeholders about how to develop RRI-like practices while deriving a competitive advantage are provided below. First, recommendations for industry, which is the principal actor of competitive advantage at the micro level, are provided. These are followed by recommendations for the main actors of competitive advantage at the macro level: policymakers. Then, recommendations for supporting stakeholders that help to create the context in which RRI-like practices are developed are provided, with the aim of supporting their role in accompanying the principal actors in competitive advantage concerns, allowing for sustainable socio-economic development. These are recommendations for research performing organisations, research funding organisations, investors, civil society, and NGOs and association bodies.

Recommendations for Policy Makers

  1. Facilitate contextual factors
    Contextual factors – that is, the background conditions under which companies must operate – were shown to be a very relevant factor in the development of a competitive advantage at the micro level, adding up to macro-economic performance. These factors could operate both as a driver, but also as a barrier. Policymakers may design regulations that promote RRI-like practices and reward companies that incorporate socio-ethical concerns in their research and innovation work; for example, including ethical stage-gates to access public funding or fostering participatory processes from a quadruple helix perspective. Domain-specific measures may also be adopted to facilitate engagement of the private sector in RRI-like practices, such as development of STEM education programmes for women, minorities or disadvantaged groups, which would increase access to diverse research and innovation teams in a strategic manner.
  2. Engage in participatory processes when regulating about controversial research and innovation processes
    Emergent technologies often pose a challenge for policymakers, since they often evolve faster than the regulation cycle is designed for. In addition, several challenges are present;
    (a) the inherent uncertainty of novel technologies
    (b) the strength of public concern and reactions; and third, the need to incorporate techno-economic considerations in the regulation.
    In order to balance these aspects and develop regulation that are neither too stringent for technological advances and competitive advantage, nor dismissive of public concerns, participatory processes that foster inter-stakeholder dialogue might be promoted. Such dialogues would inform policymakers about the state of development from the technological perspective, the economic outlook and the socio-ethical concerns; hence helping to develop regulations based on technical and social evidence that are well-adjusted to the implementation of the technology in the local context.
  3. Balance short-term and long-term development issues
    When designing policy – particularly when it comes to emergent technologies – it is important to balance short-term, economic development goals, with long-term development issues. Principles of RRI and RRI-like practices in policymaking might help to do so, as stated above, through participatory processes. Anticipatory and reflective processes might also help to identify issues that might emerge in the long-term, hurting sustainable development. An example of this is the regulation of GMOs in Latin America & the Caribbean, which varies across countries, but aims to protect natural and cultural diversity – in line with the Cartagena and Nagoya Protocols – while including short-term development considerations based on the wider development of the technology. 

Global Survey on socially responsible research/innovation

By SalM on July 20, 2020 in RRING NEWS

Under the leadership of our partners from ICoRSA a global survey was launched. The survey was open from 1 October 2019 to 20 December 2019.

Variables covered demographic Information such as: Age; Gender; Nationality; Native Language; Level of Education & Subject of Schooling; Location of Schooling & Professional Career; Time in current position of career. Five RRING World Regions were included in the analysis (following UNESCO regions of the world): European and North American States; Latin-American and Caribbean States; Asian and Pacific States; African States; Arab States.

The survey resulted in 2198 responses with a completion rate of 70% or more; 539 responses with a completion rate of less than 70%. The average completion rate of the survey was 97%. Respondents on average took 33 minutes to complete the survey.


Diverse & Inclusive: Diverse Range

‘It is important to involve individuals/organizations with a diverse range of perspectives and expertise when planning my research and innovation work.’

*Involve early a wide range of actors and publics in R&I practice, deliberation, and decision-making to yield more useful and higher quality knowledge. This strengths democracy and broadens sources of expertise, disciplines and perspectives

[African=195, Arab=164, Asia & Pac=168, Eur & N. Am=1377, Lat. Am & Car=208, India=82]

  • Mostly similar distribution of agreement
  • India leading slightly with 55% strongly agreeing

All researchers, regardless of the region mostly strongly agree that “’It is important to involve individuals/organizations with a diverse range of perspectives and expertise when planning my research and innovation work.’ With the highest percentage for India comparing to other investigated regions.

Diverse & Inclusive: Gender

‘It is important to promote gender equality in my research and innovation work.’

*Involve early a wide range of actors and publics in R&I practice, deliberation, and decision-making to yield more useful and higher quality knowledge. This strengths democracy and broadens sources of expertise, disciplines and perspectives

[African=192, Arab=159, Asia & Pac=161, Eur & N. Am=1333, Lat. Am & Car=204, India=83]

  • Mostly similar distribution of agreement
  • Latin America leading slightly with 60% strongly agreeing
  • Most neutral views in Europe and North America (15%)

Diverse & Inclusive: Ethnic Minorities

‘It is important to include ethnic minorities in my research and innovation work.’

*Involve early a wide range of actors and publics in R&I practice, deliberation, and decision-making to yield more useful and higher quality knowledge. This strengths democracy and broadens sources of expertise, disciplines and perspectives

[African=188, Arab=142, Asia & Pac=154, Eur & N. Am=1278, Lat. Am & Car=197, India=80]

  • Overall sentiment leaning heavily on agreement
  • Latin America and the Caribbean slightly with 42% strongly agreeing
  • Comparatively high percentages indicating a neutral view (13%-22%)

Anticipative & Reflective: Societal Concerns

‘It is important to ensure that the way I do my research and innovation work does not cause concerns for society.’

*Envision impacts and reflect on the underlying assumptions, values, and purposes to better understand how R&I shapes the
future. This yields to valuable insights and increase our capacity to act on what we know.

[African=196, Arab=155, Asia & Pac=163, Eur & N. Am=1314, Lat. Am & Car=205, India=80]

  • Overall sentiment leaning heavily on agreement
  • Africa has the highest combined “strongly agree” and “agree” percentage (83%)
  • Overall distribution of agreement is similar across regions

Open and Transparent: R&I Methods and Processes

‘It is important to make my research and innovation methods/processes open and transparent.’

*Communicate in a balanced, meaningful way methods, results,conclusions, and implications to enable public scrutiny anddialogue. This benefits the visibility and understanding of R&I.

[African=192, Arab=166, Asia and Pac= 164, Eur and N. Am=1374, Lat. Am and Car=209, India=89]

  • Overall sentiment leaning heavily on agreement
  • Highest combined disagreement to the statement across African regions
  • Overall distribution of agreement is similar across regions

Open and Transparent: R&I Work and Accesibility

‘It is important to make the results of my research and innovations work accessible to as wide a public as possible’

*Communicate in a balanced, meaningful way methods, results,conclusions, and implications to enable public scrutiny anddialogue. This benefits the visibility and understanding of R&I.

[African=192, Arab=164, Asia and Pac= 166, Eur and N. Am=1360, Lat. Am and Car=209, India=89]

  • Overall sentiment leaning heavily on agreement
  • Highest combined disagreement to the statement across African regions
  • Overall distribution of agreement is similar across regions

Open and Transparent: R&I Activity Availability

‘It is important to make data from my research and innovation activities freely available to the public.’ 

*Communicate in a balanced, meaningful way methods, results,conclusions, and implications to enable public scrutiny anddialogue. This benefits the visibility and understanding of R&I.

[African=187, Arab=163, Asia and Pac= 162, Eur and N. Am=1319, Lat. Am and Car=204, India=78]

  • Overall sentiment leaning heavily on agreement
  • Highest combined disagreement to the statement across African regions
  • Overall distribution of agreement is very smilar across regions

Responsive & Adaptive: Societal Needs

‘Research and innovation should adress societal needs’

*Be able to modify modes of thought and behaviour, overarching organizational structures, in response to changing circumstances, knowledge, and perspectives. This aligns action with the needs expressed by

[African=193, Arab=164, Asia and Pac= 171, Eur and N. Am=1400, Lat. Am and Car=210, India=86]

  • Overall sentiment leaning heavily on agreement
  • Highest combined disagreement to the statement across Latin American regions
  • India leading with 66% strongly agreeing

Results: Ethical Principles

‘Research and innovation should adress societal needs’

[African=184, Arab=159, Asia and Pac= 156, Eur and N. Am=1274, Lat. Am and Car=197, India=77]

  • Overall sentiment leaning heavily on agreement
  • Highest combined dosagreement to the statement across Latin American regions
  • India leading with 66% strongly agreeing

Overall findings: Attitudes about socially responsible research/innovatiom

  • Uniformly high ‘in principle’ agreement to wide range of socially responsible research/innovation (RRI) conepts
  • Indicates general attitudionl support, although specific way this translates into practice varies dramatically

Professor Eric A. Jensen has a global reputation in social research and impact evaluation of public and stakeholder engagement with science. Jensen is currently Senior Research Fellow at ICoRSA (International Consortium of Research Staff Associations), working on the RRING ( and GRRIP ( projects about responsible research and innovation.

Dr. Jensen’s track record includes over 100 publications- including peer-reviewed journal articles in Nature, Conservation Biology, Public Understanding of Science, and books and book chapters published by Cambridge University Press and Oxford University Press, as well as high profile government-commissioned reports- and dozens of major projects on science communication, public engagement and responsible research and innovation. He has worked as an evaluation trainer, advisor and consultant for many government departments, agencies and public engagement institutions globally, such as Science Foundation Ireland, Science Gallery Dublin, the European Space Agency, University of Cambridge, University of Oxford, CERN, Arts Council England, the National Coordinating Centre for Public Engagement, Association of Science & Technology Centers and the World Association of Zoos and Aquariums.

Jensen’s PhD is in sociology from the University of Cambridge. His expertise spans themes relating to evidence-based science communication, public engagement, research impact and responsible research and innovation policies and practices.

For access to some of Dr Jensen’s publications see:
• LinkedIn Profile

Dr. Eric Jensen
Senior Research Fellow and director of ICoRSA Policy Research Unit

Download the report here

Learning to do responsible innovation in industry: six lessons

By SalM on July 16, 2020 in News


There is now almost a decade of experience with RRI (Responsible Research and Innovation), including a growing emphasis on RRI in industry. Based on our experiences in the EU-funded project PRISMA, we find that the companies we engaged could be motivated to do RRI, but often only after we first shifted initial assumptions and strategies. Accordingly, we formulate six lessons we learned in the expectation that they will be relevant both for RRI in industry as well as for the future of RRI more broadly. These lessons are: (1) Strategize for stakeholder engagement; (2) Broaden current assessments; (3) Place values center stage; (4) Experiment for responsiveness; (5) Monitor RRI progress; and (6) Aim for shared value.


The notion of RRI is now about 10 years old, although the discourse on it can be traced back to the 2000s (Rip 2014; De Saille 2015). In this period, much experience has been built up. This includes growing interest in implementing RRI in different contexts, including industry (e.g. Halme and Korpela 2014; Scholten and Blok 2015; Gurzawska, Mäkinen, and Brey 2017; Lees and Lees 2017; Lubberink et al. 2017; van de Poel et al. 2017). In this perspectives contribution, we present six practical lessons for effectuating RRI in industry, which we believe also to be relevant for RRI more broadly.

The lessons we formulate are based on our experiences in the EC-funded project PRISMA, in which we piloted the implementation of RRI in eight companies (from large to small medium enterprises (SMEs) located in the UK, Italy, Switzerland and the Netherlands), working in the technological domains of synthetic biology, nanotechnology, autonomous vehicles and internet of things (IoT), including both industry-led and university-led projects (Maia and Coenen 2018; Nathan et al. 2018). Previously, we presented a conceptual model for RRI in industry (van de Poel et al. 2017) on which PRISMA was based. We have reported our scientific findings elsewhere; here our aim is to present the following practical lessons that we consider useful for effectuating RRI in industry:

  1. Strategize for stakeholder engagement

  2. Broaden current assessments

  3. Place values center stage

  4. Experiment for responsiveness

  5. Monitor RRI progress

  6. Aim for shared values

Strategize for stakeholder engagement

In the RRI literature, early stakeholder involvement is often considered a crucial element of RRI in order to increase transparency as well as alignment with societal needs and democratic values (e.g. Owen, Bessant, and Heintz 2013; cf. Rowe and Frewer 2000; Blok, Hoffmans, and Wubben 2015; Silva et al. 2019). Early engagement is not without its difficulties, however, especially in industry (e.g. Blok 2014; Brand and Blok 2019). That said, we observed that barriers to stakeholder engagement are often quite practical and mundane.

Even if stakeholder engagement is realized, it may neither be completely successful nor enough by itself to ensure the goals of RRI. However, it remains an essential element to integrate RRI in any context and thus a first priority should be to develop strategies to address existing barriers to stakeholder engagement. The following two examples illustrate some of the barriers we observed.

One of the pilots concerned a manufacturer of cleaning agents for professional use, which develops highly concentrated ecological cleaning agents that are combined with smart dosing systems. A main technological development for the company was IoT, which would allow making cleaning devices connected and support the collection and exchange of data. The company recognized that this might raise issues with respect to privacy and security and that it might affect the trust of customers and other stakeholders. It was, however, a small family-owned company with about fifty employees, and an R&D department with currently 4 people, and only the CEO in charge of strategic planning. The CEO, therefore, felt that the company was too small, and had too little resources to organize a stakeholder dialogue on its own. Moreover, he was hesitant to reveal too much about the company’s innovations, to avoid informing competitors. In this case, we tried to organize a stakeholder dialogue with potential users of the technology, but it did not materialize because the latter showed little interest in the technology or its potential social consequences, presumably because they were not sufficiently aware of the potential issues and their ramifications.

A company in the domain of synthetic biology experienced both a lack of resources (similar to the previous example) as well as the presence of conflicts, and lack of trust, as a barrier to stakeholder engagement. Although the company engaged with several stakeholders such as public think thanks and consumer organizations and was committed to public transparency, they faced fierce public criticism voiced by some NGOs towards the kind of product they worked on. The company considered this criticism to be strongly misguided; however, the NGOs refused to engage in a dialogue, which might be explained by the strongly diverging positions of both actors. As the company also struggled to make a profitable business case out of products they themselves believed were desirable and responsibly produced, they introduced a new strategy with a strong focus on profit making at the expense of stakeholder engagement and public transparency. Previous experiences made the company question the value of stakeholder engagement and public transparency.

We have grouped the barriers to stakeholder engagement we found in these two and the other pilots, into four main categories:

  1. Lack of resources: Companies may lack the resources, financially as well as organizationally. In particular, for smaller companies the investments required might be too constraining.

  2. Lack of evidence of issues at stake: Early on in the research and development phase, ethical and social impacts of innovation may be unclear. This could both challenge the identification of potential stakeholders, and limit their interest to engage.

  3. Confidentiality issues: Companies need to ensure confidentiality of the most innovative aspects of their R&D activities (e.g. inventions not yet protected by a patent). This could hinder an open and broad stakeholder dialogue.

  4. Conflicts and lack of trust: The public opinion on a specific technology or product (or the company itself) could be negative. Consequently, trust with certain stakeholders may be lacking and engagement could become practically impossible or unproductive.

Broaden current assessments

Recently, numerous (EC-funded) projects have aimed at the implementation of RRI in different contexts, including industry. In our view, these projects tend to follow a similar pattern. They tend to develop new RRI tools or make inventories of existing ones and then attempt to apply these in the given context. This is also how we started in the PRISMA project. The approach, however, turned out to be of limited use.

In our experience, companies can be motivated to do RRI but not primarily in the form of RRI tools that are brought to them from the outside. Rather, it is better to start from what companies already do and try to broaden that. In most pilots, some form of assessment of ethical and social impacts of technology already took place, through both formal and explicit procedures (sometimes legally required) as well as more informally. The former included, for instance, approaches to risk, environmental and life-cycle assessment, and safety and quality management. Thus, in many cases, RRI approaches can be built on existing assessment activities in companies. The added value of RRI in such circumstances is to broaden these assessments. We found three ways to do this:

  1. Broadening the values and issues addressed. One of the pilot companies was active in sustainability assessment, but integrating its (cleaning) products with IoT might also raise privacy issues, an area of assessment with which the company had no experience yet. PRISMA helped them to further assess this angle. Another company’s value proposition was a piece of internet architecture that would enhance people’s privacy and control of their data. Since its raison d’etre involved being at the forefront of a live public debate, the natural way forward was to begin with the company’s own well-developed principles.

  2. Including external perspectives in the assessment. Assessments can also be broadened by including (more) external perspectives, e.g. by organizing stakeholder engagements activities. These are difficult, but in our experience worthwhile. Indeed, in one case, a fruitful engagement was created by bringing representatives of two of the companies together who both work on digital technology (one focusing on automated cars, the other on software), enhancing a discourse about the management and protection of personal data.

  3. Upstreaming assessment so that it can influence research and innovation. In one of the pilot projects, a life cycle analysis (LCA) was carried out at the end of product development. Furthermore, within that project, it became clear as it progressed that the commercial prerogatives of one of the partners was guiding the nature of the products being developed in a way that made them less sustainable than they might be. We suggested that such analysis be carried out in an anticipatory manner so that it can inform innovation and product development in a way that is timely and effective.

The lesson from the above is not that established tools are not useful for effectuating RRI in industry, but that one should start from the context, practices and procedures companies are already experienced with, try to broaden that, and then see how existing RRI tools can be fitted in.

In general, we found that it is crucial that RRI is not effectuated in a ‘one size fits all’ fashion, but in such a way that it can be adapted to the specificities of particular companies or contexts. There is a need for both a bottom-up approach, as the one just described in this section starting from what is already happening in the company, and a more top-down approach, using and applying available and acknowledged RRI principles, practices, and tools.

To deal with this challenge, we developed an RRI roadmap methodology based on business-oriented, widely accepted innovation management methodologies. We took as references both existing management system standards, such as ISO 26000ISO 31000, and CEN/TS 16555 and the concept of Innovation Policy Road-Mapping Methodology (IPRM), aiming to articulate societal needs and connect them to technological and industrial development policies and innovation strategies (Ahlqvist, Valovirta, and Loikkanen 2012). We developed a step-wise process, in which the company is asked first to identify the specific products to focus, the key ethical and social issues at stake, the stakeholders to involve, and then to experiment and practices, assess the value and eventually commit to RRI principles and practices. The overall goal is the development of an RRI roadmap, setting a vision and an action plan to integrate RRI into product development, from the early stages of R&I to market entry. Expert advice, and internal training to increase RRI skills and competences are seen as pre-requisite to develop the RRI Roadmap. As is shown by the positive response of the companies involved in PRISMA (all fully endorsed their final RRI roadmaps), this approach seems particularly apt to develop a tailor-made RRI strategy that is attuned to specific challenges, resources, expertise, and commitments of companies (Porcari et al. 2019). 1

Place values center stage

The language of RRI is not (yet) familiar in industry. Rather, RRI discourse is perceived as academic and full of jargon (Dreyer et al. 2017). A commonly shared language is needed to improve the relationship between RRI approaches and existing company practices. Based on our experience, we think the concept of ‘values’ might be promising because they denote things worth striving for, such as safety, sustainability, integrity, openness and fairness. Companies often use values in their Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) policies, mission statements and corporate strategies (cf. Iatridis and Schroeder 2016). The idea that they should create shared value for themselves and society is also gaining prominence (e.g. Kramer and Porter 2011). The discourse of values also has the communicative advantage that it helps foreground what is considered important and desirable.

One way we learned to promote uptake of RRI activities in companies was to draw attention to tensions we witnessed among values pertinent to innovation (i.e. in which two or more values cannot be realized simultaneously).

In the case of a synthetic biology company there was a clear conflict between the values of sustainability and reliability. To be sure that their products are sustainable – as they claim – they would have to conduct a thorough LCA. However, because the production processes are constantly developing, an LCA would not make much sense because it would be soon outdated. This implies that the company believes they are making sustainable products, without knowing this for sure and without proof.

Another pilot, in the IoT domain, represented a complicated instance of possible value tensions, where the technology was in some contexts proposed as a way of safeguarding people’s control of their data, in some as a way of enhancing their privacy, and in some as a way of increasing cybersecurity. Those working on the project put forward sophisticated accounts of how all three goals could be simultaneously met.

In yet another pilot dealing with the application of organic based nanomaterials in dermo-cosmetic products, the technology was helpful to increase safety of the production process and efficacy of the product, but at the same time introduced potential consumer concerns about the use of advanced technologies in a product certified for using only organic (non-synthetic) ingredients. The dialogue between developers, producers, certification bodies and retailers was helpful to ensure transparency and improve confidence of all actors of the R&I value chain in the product.

From an RRI perspective, one would want to ensure that companies become aware of value tensions both in their normal operations as well as in their innovation processes. In many cases, there may be disagreement about how value tensions should be dealt with (or resolved) and/or there may not be one obviously best way to address them (van de Poel 2015). Nevertheless, companies have an opportunity to be transparent about, and accountable for how they choose to deal with value tensions and why they did so. It might in fact also have advantages for companies not only to accept accountability for how value tensions are dealt with but, also to actively communicate how they deal with value tensions. Such communication might also contribute to the corporate image of a company and so help the implementation of its business strategy.

Experiment for responsiveness

Like stakeholder engagement, anticipation is usually seen as a pillar of RRI. However, anticipation is notoriously difficult and thus its practical value for companies can appear limited. In such cases we suggest a shift to the RRI dimension of responsiveness, here understood as responding to new insights and developments as they evolve over time.

Companies are sometimes reluctant to introduce innovative technologies because they are unsure of the reactions of potential clients, publics, and other stakeholders (cf. Blok 2014). In the so-called waiting games that can result (Robinson, Le Masson, and Weil 2012), all actors wait for each other to take the first step in reducing uncertainty and, as a consequence, nothing happens, even if it is in everybody’s interest to reduce uncertainty.

We witnessed a somewhat similar situation in one of the pilots: the pilot company developed a technology for drones that would allow capturing images and data and analysing them in real-time. This could be helpful for monitoring and surveillance, for example for government tasks. It can also be intruding for privacy, however. The latter was addressed by using a tool that would automatically blur details of, for example, bystanders. Another issue was the safety of using autonomously flying drones in populated areas. Such use was forbidden by the current regulations. Although the government recognized that such drones could potentially be useful to fulfil public functions, it was reluctant to develop a new regulatory framework without operational experience with the use of drones in populated areas. The company, on the other hand, could not try out the drones, as that was forbidden.

To break such a deadlock, mechanisms are needed to gain experience with the new technology and to reduce uncertainty. One way in which this can be done is through (small-scale) niche experimentation (Kemp, Schot, and Hoogma 1998). Such initiatives also offer a potential for RRI. One may, for example, think of the creation of protected testing zones, where different regulations apply as to allow for experimentation, for example with drones or self-driving cars (cf. Weng et al. 2015). Another example is living labs, i.e. real-world environments, where new technologies are tried out and data are gathered about the use of the technology (Almirall, Lee, and Wareham 2012). Such experimentation can enhance learning about a technology; stakeholder reactions to the technology; and the ethical, legal and societal issues it raises and thus can help better align innovations, users, and societal needs. To address the very real possibility that such experiments may create risks or negative social consequences for society, however, it is important to create conditions for responsible experimentation (see e.g. Van de Poel (2016) for a proposal).

Monitor RRI progress

Most likely in the future, companies will continue to struggle to understand the value of their investments into RRI and not fully appreciate how it can enhance their goals and objectives. Monitoring the RRI performance of companies can help them measure, understand, and communicate the value of their RRI investments. To this end, we developed a tool that helps companies to formulate key performance indicators (KPIs) (Yaghmaei et al. 2019). Formulating KPIs may stimulate and help companies to think about what they want to achieve with RRI, and subsequently to monitor whether their RRI activities indeed help to achieve such objectives. It also allows an adaption or reformulating of the company’s RRI strategy and activities, if appropriate.

A crucial issue is whether such RRI monitoring should be done by the company itself or should include some form of external auditing. Both have their advantages and disadvantages. Internal monitoring would appear easier to implement and less sensitive for a company; moreover, as the company takes the initiative itself it may be more open to learn from experiences. On the other hand, internal monitoring only may raise doubts to the outside world, particularly if only positive assessments are communicated, leading up to the idea that monitoring merely provides a form of windows-dressing rather than a real commitment to RRI (cf. Taylor, Vithayathil, and Yim 2018). This issue raises similar considerations to discussions in evaluation studies on the purported goals of monitoring and evaluation in the first place (Kunseler and Vasileiadou 2016): are these activities undertaken to be able to be held accountable, or are they done to learn?

Aim for shared value

Innovators often see RRI as a means of gaining trust and legitimacy in the case of potentially controversial emerging technologies. We witnessed this particularly in the domain of synthetic biology. While RRI may indeed contribute to building trust and legitimacy, we witnessed two pitfalls or caveats to framing RRI as a trust building endeavor:

(1) RRI requires mutual trust. RRI often requires some initial mutual trust to begin with (Asveld, Ganzevles, and Osseweijer 2015). This requires not only that consumers, NGOs and publics trust companies, but also that companies trust these stakeholders. In one pilot in synthetic biology, such mutual trust was absent. Under such circumstances, RRI may actually become part of the conflict. NGOs that oppose a technology may perceive the RRI strategy of a company as a strategic move to gain public trust rather than as a genuine effort. Companies, on the other hand, may be reluctant to become more open and inclusive, as RRI would require, if they fear that this will fuel the controversy.

(2) Trust cannot be instrumentalised. Trust is something that is difficult to earn but easy to lose. Moreover, trust is essentially a by-product of (normal) interactions between parties – interactions through which parties can assess each other’s trustworthiness. Strategies that deliberately and explicitly aim at trust may not only misfire, but even be counterproductive, especially if a strategic dimension revolving around increasing stakeholders’ acceptance of technologies is at play.

Instead of striving to increase trust, we found that a more normatively desirable practical message is to strive to be trustworthy. This implies that one focusses on one’s own actions and explicitly leaves the decision to actually confer trust with others. Rather than promoting RRI as a means of increasing the legitimacy of innovations, we suggest that it be framed as a possibility to create shared value with society. Such a perspective also creates opportunities for companies, and other technology developers, to propose their own unique value proposition to society and, in doing so, to improve their corporate image and contribute to their business strategy.

Conclusions and the future of RRI

The gist of these six lessons is that RRI implementation should do justice to contextual factors and should start bottom-up, from what is already happening in a company or technological sector. This is reflected in our first three lessons, which aim at finding strategies, values and language that render RRI meaningful to companies. At the same time, bottom-up efforts need to be supplemented by more top-down measures and activities, which is reflected in our fifth lesson of RRI monitoring. As we indicated, such monitoring should not solely be done by a company or branch organization but should also ensure some external accountability. The fourth and sixth lessons about experimentation, trust and legitimation can perhaps best be seen as trying to avoid two pitfalls that may well apply to RRI more generally, namely an overreliance on anticipation and, particularly in an industrial context, placing too much emphasis on creating trust and legitimacy, which runs the risk of instrumentalising trust. We suggest that these three themes—developing bottom-up and top-down strategies, and avoiding pitfalls—will remain important cornerstones of successful efforts in the future to continue to implement and institutionalize RRI in industry and other contexts.


Parts of this article have been published as deliverable 3.3 from the PRISMA project. All authors have participated in the PRISMA project. Ibo van de Poel has written the first version of this contribution, which has been subsequently drafted by the other authors. All other authors have contributed with their ideas and have read and commented on earlier versions of this article. We thank the reviewers and the editor for very useful comments and suggestions.

Notes on contributors

Ibo van de Poel is professor in Ethics and Technology and head of the Department Values, Technology & Innovation at TU Delft. ORCID: 0000-0002-9553-5651Lotte Asveld is assistant professor in Biotechnology & Society at TU Delft. ORCID: 0000-0002-2524-7814

Steven Flipse is assistant professor in Communication Design for Innovation at the Science Education & Communication research group at the TU Delft. ORCID: 0000-0002-7400-1490

Pim Klaassen , at time of writing was senior policy advisor Safe-by-Design at RIVM and assistant professor Policy, Communication and Ethics in the Health and Life Sciences at Vrije Universiteit Amsterdam. ORCID: 0000-0003-0029-6393

Zenlin Kwee is assistant professor of Strategy and Innovation in the Department of Values, Technology & Innovation at TU Delft. ORCID: 0000-0003-4146-033X

Maria Maia is a senior researcher working on Technology Assessment in Health at KIT. She is also an affiliated researcher at CICS.Nova. ORCID: 0000-0002-3501-6876

Elvio Mantovani is scientific director of Airi/Nanotec IT, the Committee for Nanotechnology and the other Key Enabling Technologies-KETs of Airi . ORCID: 0000-0003-0971-4109

Christopher Nathan is a Research fellow at the Interdisciplinary Ethics Research Group, University of Warwick. ORCID: 0000-0002-2386-3517

Andrea Porcari is project manager at Airi. ORCID: 0000-0002-7550-7805

Emad Yaghmaei is research fellow in Responsible Innovation at the Department Values, Technology & Innovation at TU Delft. ORCID: 0000-0003-4884-7801


This methodology is now being integrated, together with experiences from other projects and initiatives, in a pre-standard document developed as a CEN (European Committee for Standardization) Common Workshop Agreement (CEN 2019).


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Workshop: The Recommendation on Science & Scientific Researchers & COVID-19

By SalM on July 10, 2020 in RRING NEWS

The COVID-19 pandemic has brought attention to the need for science communications by public authorities. For this, the engagement of science communities to help public authorities fine-tune their messages and get the message right every time is critical. What mechanisms may help inform public authorities reliably about the latest in research while maintaining the autonomy of the researchers and quality research without undue pressure and unrealistic expectations? The Recommendation on Science and Scientific Researchers is a text that provides the global common standards, and it was unanimously adopted by 195 countries (including India) in 2017.

This workshop, co-convened by RRING project, UNESCO and PRIA on 9th July 2020, was aimed at providing the participants from India an opportunity to learn about the Recommendation and review the same in light of the recent pandemic experiences.

Listen to the whole workshop on the video below