A suite of tools for countries to better perform their four-yearly monitoring and reporting requirements for the Recommendation on Science

By SalM on October 16, 2020 in News

With the help of UNESCO and the International Consortium of Research Staff Associations – ICoRSA, RRING project is developing a suite of tools for countries to better perform their four-yearly monitoring and reporting requirements for the Recommendation on Science and Scientific Researchers. Lithuania is among the first to fully test tools and indicators during the trial period, followed by the US and South Africa.

UNESCO and the Research Council of Lithuania on June 29, 2020, organized the first online meeting of a new consultation group based in Lithuania, which brought together research and innovation systems experts. The experts began to examine the self-assessment requirements under the UNESCO Recommendation for Science and Scientific Researchers.

This meeting was held online via the MS Teams platform, on June 29 from 3 to 5 p.m and it was the first out of three meetings planned in the following period. These activities are implemented by the Horizon 2020 RRING (Responsible Research and Innovation Networked Globally) Project, and bring together an impressive list of stakeholders in Lithuanian science.


Recommendations for science and scientific researchers


In 2017, UNESCO issued the revised Recommendation for Science and Scientific Researchers covering all principles of Responsible Research: ethics, open science, STEM education, public engagement, and gender equality.

„Science is part of society, and while we want it to be excellent, we also want to ensure that it is an activity that does not detract from but contributes to making our societies more humane, just and inclusive. Once in every few years, it is worth the effort to check if we are doing everything needed to make the ecosystem of science a healthy one that attracts young people and keeps the best talent, and is adapting to changes like digitalization and globalization. Even great universities should not do this alone, The stakeholders of research and innovation may want to develop a conversation on these systemic issues“, said April Tash from UNESCO, who served as the lead manager for the four years of negotiations which led to the revised treaty.

195 countries signed up the Treaty, among them also Lithuania – making this set of standards truly global. The treaty obliges each state to evaluate its performance related to these standards every 4 years.

„The first evaluation process is being launched in July 2020, and the completed evaluation reports must be completed in 10 months by 31 March 2021. UNESCO is about to publish a set of guidelines, but everyone agrees that is can be hard to select the right indicators and intelligence to understand how a country is doing, and some things like scientific freedom or innovative capacity have many dimensions and can be hard to measure“, said Tash. 


Structures and support measures for EU member countries developed by RRING and UNESCO


UNESCO is collaborating with the RRING project on developing structures and support measures for EU member countries that, once started, should be in place for the next round and future rounds of the 4-yearly evaluations in 2024 and 2028. In the meanwhile, they may also help the government understand better what is working and not working in terms of its efforts to create a favorable environment.

UNESCO and RRING began a country pilot case study. The two countries selected for the pilot are Lithuania and Ireland. The immediate goal of the pilot will be to assist the countries in preparing a self-assessment. But this may also set the bar for other countries to set up participative processes that are similar, so as to do their evaluations following the Lithuanian example.


Included experts from multiple sectors


The advisory group (Consultation Group) consists of experts from the four very different stakeholder groups who share an interest in upholding strong, healthy, and attractive Lithuanian research and innovation. They represent the public sector, Industry, Academia, and to lesser degree citizens and civil society.  Included are some international organizations; organizations representing science and technology educators; employers generally; learned societies, research performing organizations; associations of science writers; women in science associations; youth and student organizations.

During their meetings, the members of the group participated in the assessment exercise of how Lithuania performs against the standards related to responsible research and innovation.


RRING Project


For almost two decades, European initiatives have encouraged and promoted responsible research and innovation in academia, research, and research performing organizations (RPOs). Although there is a wealth of projects and consortium in this sector, a certain methodology is needed to use the acquired knowledge to drive and achieve great progress. That is why the RRING project seeks to connect researchers and research organizations into a strong community or network of professionals and has chosen a vision that reaches also to other parts of the globe, carrying these values forward.

“A strong network enables better mutual learning and cooperation in responsible research and innovation. We are in the process of creating a global network named the RRING community to develop and foster open access to a global knowledge base on Responsible Research and Innovation”, said Gordon Dalton, Project Coordinator.

Thus, RRING in this case will not provide a strategy that should be implemented from top to bottom. “Instead, we want to use a bottom-up approach, learning from best practices in Responsible Research and Innovation globally and from the professionals worldwide”, emphasizes Dalton.

This powerful network of science professionals is the driving vision of this new RRING community, established to develop a more connected world for responsible research and innovation.

Responsible Research and Innovation & Digital Inclusiveness during Covid-19 Crisis

By SalM on October 16, 2020 in COVID-19, News

Responsible Research and Innovation & Digital Inclusiveness during Covid-19 Crisis in the Human Brain Project (HBP)

Covid-19 changes the lives of all of us: Institutions and other places are closed; it is not possible to see friends and family personally and keeping a distance is the topmost commandment. Therefore, most of us are working from home and digitalisation is on the way up in many aspects of life. The HBP has a long-lasting experience of interdisciplinary collaboration by virtually bridging distances because its involved partners are not only complex but also spatially remote. In these challenging times of the pandemic, the HBP’s Diversity and Equal Opportunities Committee together with the Ethics Rapporteur Programme has started “I-include”, an Initiative for Inclusive Digital Engagement to make sure that no one is left behind virtually and that diversity matters in digital collaborations. It offers recommendations based on the practical experiences of HBP members. Considering this new framework during the current situation is a way to ensure that our digitally distributed work becomes a valuable and successful experience corresponding to the standards of Responsible Research and Innovation (RRI). RRI is a dynamic, iterative process in which all stakeholders in research and innovation become mutually responsive and share responsibility for both the process and its outcomes. Even and particularly in difficult times.


I-include – Initiative for Inclusive Digital Engagement


The HBP, and each individual contributing to it has experience of interdisciplinary collaboration by virtually bridging distances. Departing from the framework of Responsible Research and Innovation (RRI), the HBP has dedicated itself to foster equal opportunities, and with a learning attitude, serve as a best practice example for projects characterised by complexity and spatial remoteness of involved partners. Embracing diversity, inclusiveness is especially relevant to make the nature of our distributed work a valuable, successful experience, in general, and especially in this Covid-19 crisis with most of us working from home. The following recommendations are based on the practical experience of HBP members.

1. Social and Family Life

Social and family life means taking care of each other, in a balanced way, with the means, hearts, and minds we can offer. For example, family and other social significative obligations vary depending on the changed living conditions. In times of crisis, women are often hit harder because existing gender inequalities are exacerbated.

The HBP recommends thus to

  • Keep in touch with your employees or team members, show interest and understanding for their private life domains. As long as team members work from their home offices: Don’t expect the same results, give more time, ensure additional feedback.
  • Share experiences and ideas, information that might be helpful like games or learning platforms for children, how to support family members or friends in need of help.

2. Stress and Anxiety

People react differently to a crisis, being confronted with bad news and statistics, being forced into different working modes and new forms of obligations, being cut off from well-established routines, colleagues and friends is stressful. How this stress can be processed depends not only on the personality, but also on the specific circumstances of life, which bring stability, or other factors of uncertainty, for example, the financial situation, personal health, or remoteness of friends and family members.

The HBP recommends thus to

  • Ask team members, how they are doing and what might help them. Make sure it is safe to speak up, for example, by revealing your concerns. Listen carefully and send messages of understanding. If adequate, offer virtual coaching.
  • Focus on “what needs to be done, and how to do it”: a working relationship must focus on work, and set a good framework enabling everyone to contribute to the best of their means.

3. Career Stage, Roles and Responsibilities

The impact a pandemic like Covid-19 can have on the professional situation depends, among others, on the educational background or scientific discipline and career stage of a person. While some can make progress by working from home, others might depend on lab work, contributions to conferences or a research stay abroad. Especially for early career stage scientists’ contracts might not be saved or at severe risk due to travel restrictions, no or restricted access to labs, and further resources crucially needed to progress.

The HBP recommends thus to

  • Set up individual meetings dedicated to career planning and to share in open dialogue experiences and thoughts, to learn how others have managed this situation and support each other. Use your networks to offer mentoring and sponsoring, or become an active mentor yourself.
  • Clarify with your university or organisations the different options of contracting under the given circumstances; provide as much security as possible. Ensure that letters of recommendation address special achievements under difficult conditions.

4. Team Spirit and Virtual Collaboration

Successful collaboration and team spirit often derive from joint activities in close proximity, the opportunity to get to know and understand each other both professionally and privately. Virtual environments lack the opportunity to dedicate the same amount of time and involve all senses, which is even more critical when cultural and professional differences come into play. Different cultures and personalities also lead to different ways of written conversation. Misunderstanding arises easily from written communication, especially when people are stressed and work on laptops and might overlook important information addressed in an email. Virtual meetings are better than emails and also better for the environment than meetings that involve at least several flights to get together. Still, they are more exhausting because movement in between meetings is missing, voices sound different, and it is unclear who looks at what on the monitor.

The HBP recommends thus to

  • Make sure there is enough time to get to know different work style preferences, explore and value talents and experiences, understand what everyone needs to get into top form in the virtual world. Build safety and offer a variety of different collaborative channels and ways to contribute. Check with everyone on a regular basis and get in touch with those members you might not have heard of for a while.
  • Be aware that emails might not arrive, end up in spam filters, the content might be overlooked or hard to interpret. Do not hesitate to ask twice if the message came, pick up your phone or favorite VC channel to clarify the details.
  • Make participants aware of the challenges of virtual meetings as well as the technical options of organising the meeting. Send documents beforehand, give enough time and opportunity to respond via different channels. Also, make use of chat rooms to raise questions and answer them in the correct order.
  • Keep meetings short and mindful and keep up in follow up meetings. Respect privacy and do not make it obligatory to have cameras turned on. Make everyone aware of the opportunity to show their names only, a preselected picture or a virtual background instead of their private environment.

Funding

Our research activities have received funding from the European Union’s Horizon 2020 Framework Programme for Research and Innovation under the Specific Grant Agreement No. 785907 (Human Brain Project SGA2).

Acknowledgments

The authors would like to acknowledge the contribution of Peter Zeckert (Forschungszentrum Jülich, Germany); Alastair Thompson and Evan Hancock (École Polytechnique Fédérale de Lausanne, Switzerland), Josepine Fernow (Uppsala University, Centre for Research Ethics & Bioethics (CRB), Sweden), Julia Trattnig (Convelop, Austria), and Specific Grant Agreement No. 945539 (Human Brain Project SGA3) in the development of these recommendations.

Copyright

Copyright remains with the authors. This is an open-access article distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution License, which permits unrestricted use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original author and source are credited.

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