The Responsible Innovation in the Age of AI

By SalM on February 15, 2021 in News

Facial recognition, privacy, and ethics are gaining more attention in the marketplace. Technology leaders are increasingly thinking about AI’s impact on people’s lives. But, with mixed reality, 5G wireless converging with artificial intelligence, the focus is really on Responsible Innovation.

Alka Roy founded the Responsible Innovation Project to start the dialogue with technology leaders from various industries about what it means to develop technologies in a responsible manner.

Her framework seeks to create norms in the marketplace where law and market forces drive each other to propel innovation forward in a human-centered sustainable way.

She recently spoke at the Newton Series at UC Berkeley, where several hundred students resonated with her vision. They saw the need to bring a responsible lens to the technology culture and the technology ecosystems that we are creating.

Alka Roy says, “Ask yourself, how much do you trust the people who come in and try to sell you something called responsible AI—a package of sorts. What does responsible AI even look like? Is there such a thing? It’s a hard problem to solve. It takes work. When people build AI or come with toolkits or solutions, I trust them more when I think they’re being responsible. When they are willing to show up with transparency about the shortcomings and value. When they can talk about how they hold themselves accountable.”

Alka’s framework puts responsible innovation at the center of developing technology that is dependable & inclusive, delightful & trusted, and open & safe. Her framework accounts for how law, market forces, and technology can work together to create norms within the ecosystem.

Roy says, “This framework is not rocket science. It’s a reframing. The external variables or stakeholders are defined, not as pressures as we are taught in business schools, but as influences. You have to be viable economically for you to sustain and prosper, yes. You interpret and answer to the legal and policy requirements. And then there is self-regulation, the norms, the culture. This is what I am really focusing on. With innovation and technology, this is the part that is most fluid and critical. Because we are constantly in motion, making choices and decisions.”

Cultural Norms Come From Interactions Within The Innovation Ecosystem

Our innovation ecosystem is composed of many different products, companies, industries, where people develop, consume, and care about the technologies that they use. It’s the interactions between the products, companies, and technologies that naturally drive the set of principles that can become cultural norms of Responsible Innovation.

Roy says, “Every digital experience or interaction we have, like a search engine interaction, or a product that you use in a mapping product, a slew of people, many companies, many technologies have come together to create this complex little hive. What if everybody followed a set of principles with transparency about values, milestones, and it was part of the process and discipline to assess risks and understand the impacts, not only to people who usually call stakeholders to the wider set of stakeholders. If you couldn’t answer that question, there would be others to help, and it would be ok to ask for help. Think of the scientific process or manufacturing industry that has build processes to navigate higher risks and need for precision. Sometimes just understanding who and what we are excluding and including helps. And this can be based on the risk, built into our decision-making tools, best practices, with this other lens of how it will impact the world.”

Often, when we think about societal issues created by technology, we tend to pit humans against machines. This kind of thinking creates an atmosphere of animosity toward technology that ultimately does not help us solve the underlying issues to move the needle toward sustainable innovation.

Roy says, “I just want people to understand that when these discussions become framed as people against  machines, it’s problematic because it’s not really humans against machines. It’s really a bunch of humans and a bunch of machines and a bunch of processes and a bunch of cultures trying to get as much out of a user that they can. It’s really a many to one correlation. If you study modeling or game theory or behavioral economics, it gets confusing and complex fast. We’re definitely not going to solve the problem correctly if we don’t even understand it correctly.”

Understanding The Problem and Making Incremental Shifts

Last month, Alka Roy convened a roundtable of industry leaders to find out what are the main issues related to Responsible Innovation. A report was produced after the roundtable that consolidated everyone’s feedback. It is a starting point for understanding the layers of responsible innovation.

Roy says, “What I’ve been doing is what many others have been doing for a long time—just peeling the layers. Peeling the layers for myself and with my colleagues and really anyone I talk to. The messy part, though is that you have to arrive at it for yourself. It’s a collective and individual journey. Large companies, meaning people in those companies are doing  what they are doing because it has worked for a long time. It’s habitual. First, they have to slow down and admit that there are problems or opportunities. Then they have to be willing to give something up that they are currently getting. You know, with their current process and habits. Then, they have to know what to fix and how to fix it. They have so many competing interests. And what if they’re not even measured on building technology and AI with care and values—you know, responsibly. If they aren’t rewarded, internally or in external communities, or even for thinking about it. Will it be worth it?”

Humans create technology. But, relationships underlie the creation of these technologies. Relationships also underlie the usage of technologies. Relationships are formed from everyday interactions. The interaction between consumers and technology, the interaction between developers and products that they develop, and the interaction between businesses that produce technologies in the marketplace can all represent incremental shifts in cultural norms toward a more responsible innovation paradigm.

Roy says, “Relationships determine interactions, and they both evolve. They are constantly evolving. So, it’s hard for me to prescribe a definite way—the right or wrong way. That is why I stay away from shaming or even taking discreet, ethical stands unless it’s an extreme or clear case. I’m an engineer and an artist. To me, everything is about discovery and incremental shifts. And we have a responsibility to teach our students how to do that responsibly, our children, and the machines that we create, especially if we build autonomy in it.

Technology Leadership and the Mindset Shift

In the last few decades, as we have seen technology being developed and deployed at an unprecedented pace, we have also seen the problems inside companies and in industries that we consistently grapple with when it comes to technology. Issues such as privacy, equality were all debated and negotiated within the free market system. These negotiations often start at lines of code and perpetuate throughout the systems to become industry norms.

Roy says, “What I have been researching is how we are making decisions with technology, be it neural networks or AI or a brain-computer interface (BCI), or even simple decisions like what comments should I put next to these three lines of code so that someone else can understand it. How do we understand our own agency, our power, influence? Do we feel a sense of responsibility for what we’re putting out into the world in a complex way? Not trying to please someone else, but tapping into our own self-regulation, our own power. Whenever I talk to a startup founder or a tech leader about that, if they allow themselves to go there, there is a shift of 1% maybe, but then they make decisions differently. We have to educate our humans, our people differently, have them tap into their agency to make those responsible decisions under time pressures.”

When we educate the next generation of technology leaders differently, there’s tremendous power in creating these mindset shifts toward responsibility. Underlying every technology are relationships that flourish on trust. For instance, our hiring practices in technology historically focused on hiring unicorns. But that is changing now. We are more focused on hiring groups of technologists that have complementary skills and building creative multidisciplinary teams to execute innovations. In these teams, there are opportunities to build a trusting culture that can enable each individual to think more about the impact of technology that’s created.

Roy says, “Ok, so that feels natural to me. It’s messy but also filled with potential for innovation—like our mind and social systems and relationships. We build our relationships in layers, scaffolding after scaffolding. When we make business or technology decisions today, we do that. We use  decision trees, mental models, algorithmic models about risks, rewards, and probability.  What we need to do is to make some of these variables transparent, add variables that include impact—leverage inclusive design practices, good engineering models. Apply and see how it works. The stakes are high. It matters how we choose the test or training or synthetic data-sets. What do we know about its source, or its lineage? Who can it harm? Who does it leave out? What was rigor used in making and testing the model we are using? How much agency does our design take from other people?”

Constant Evolution Means Constant Redemption

Similar to the way that innovation evolves, cultural norms of responsible innovation, once defined in the industry, are adopted by companies incrementally. Behind every decision, there’s a chance to improve that decision for a better outcome.

Roy says, “We all have a chance of redemption with every decision. This is what I told the startup founder I talked to this morning. I felt kind of icky talking to that investor, you’re going to have another chance to talk differently to a different person, be willing to say yes and no for yourself. This stuff is not easy but what is? There is so much clutter that we often can’t hear ourselves. Learn from each thing. If there’s a part of you judging yourself, see if you can redirect it to the next decision. In my experience, self-righteousness and judgements restrict rather than expand…”

As technologies become increasingly complex, our understanding of the products we develop and how they are used evolve inside the marketplace change. On any given day, our assumptions may be limited. As the marketplace changes, there’s always a need to evolve our thinking to keep up with these technologies. Therefore, there’s always room to think about the impact of our technology to make incremental shifts toward responsibility.

Roy says, “We have mental models, which we’re trying to obviously put into computers, right? We have various mental models that we constantly navigate, and they’re competing mental models. We program many of these mental models into machines. The reason we get many of them wrong is because we are often trying to make decisions about our future based on what we know about the past. And honestly, it’s hard to pinpoint and code the fluidity of even slightly complex and interdependent decision making. We have ask the question: Why are we designing technology the way we are designing it? And what needs to evolve? Get curious about what we think we know and see if we can see it or understand it in a novel way.”

Source: Forbes

Gender equality in EU Academia

By SalM on February 10, 2021 in News, Women in Research

The European Commission’s plan to establish an initiative to address gender inequality in academe has been welcomed by sector leaders, who predicted that taking action to improve diversity will become a requirement for obtaining research funding from Brussels.

As part of wide-ranging proposals for developing the European Research Area (ERA) and the new European Education Area (EEA), the European Commission said it will, in 2021, “propose … the development of inclusive gender equality plans with member states and stakeholders in order to promote EU gender equality in R&I [research and innovation].”

The commission’s communication on ERA notes that “women remain significantly under-represented” within Europe’s research community, making up just 33.4 percent of researchers, 24 percent of professors and 26 percent of university leaders.

“Despite evidence that balanced teams perform better, gender inequalities persist in Europe’s R&I systems,” the communication notes, adding that “coordinated action with education policies and research funders will promote a gender-inclusive culture.”

That statement, alongside the EEA’s reference to a “new agenda for higher education transformation [to] promote gender balance in academic careers,” was a clear signal that European research funding was likely to become dependent on obtaining an E.U.-accredited gender award, said Kurt Deketelaere, president of the League of European Research Universities, which represents 23 leading research-intensive universities.

“If you apply for European research funding, your institution will soon need to have a detailed gender action plan,” explained Deketelaere, who said that the system resembled recent efforts to encourage open science, in which, under Plan S, research funding will be denied to those who do not sign up to commitments on how research outputs will be made freely available.

“I am quite happy with this approach as long as it does not lead to an excess of red tape,” added Deketelaere, who contrasted the commission’s direction of travel to the U.K.’s recent decision to “water down” its commitment to Athena SWAN [a program that recognizes British universities for efforts to promote gender equity] by severing the link between diversity awards and research funding.

Marcela Linkova, coordinator of Gender Action, a group of national policy experts appointed by E.U. member states and associated countries, said she “welcomed the plan … that gender equality plans are likely to be a requirement for applicants for Horizon Europe.”

“The message must be clear that public funding for research and education cannot go to supporting institutions that discriminate, promulgate stereotypes or who are unable to make full use of the talents they employ,” said Linkova, who chairs the ERA committee’s working group on gender.

“The time has come to walk the walk, not just talk the talk, because inequality continues, including the gender pay gap and gender-based violence in academia,” added Linkova.

Jan Palmowski, secretary-general of the Guild of European Research-Intensive Universities, commented that the proposals on diversity would bring the E.U. closer into line with the U.K.

“At E.U. level, we have not had Athena SWAN and there are no other countries where there is a link between research funding and gender equality so, in some sense, the E.U. is catching up on the U.K.,” said Palmowski, despite the Westminster government’s recent decision to end such a link.

Thomas Estermann, director for governance, funding and public policy development at the European University Association, also praised the commission’s commitment to tackle gender diversity..

Science journals to offer select authors open-access publishing for free

By SalM on February 5, 2021 in News

AAAS, which publishes the Science family of journals, announced today it will offer its authors a free way to comply with a mandate issued by some funders that publications resulting from research they fund be immediately free to read. Under the new open-access policy, authors may deposit near-final, peer-reviewed versions of papers accepted by paywalled Science titles in publicly accessible online repositories.

For now, Science’s approach, known as green open access, will only apply to authors of papers funded by Coalition S, a group of mostly European funders and foundations behind an open-access mandate that takes effect this month. The funders say immediate access will accelerate scientific discovery by disseminating new findings faster. Up to 31% of research papers in the flagship journal Science and four other Science titles have cited funding from Coalition S, said Bill Moran, the journals’ publisher. Until now, these papers had been available immediately only to journal subscribers, although the paywalled Science journals do make all papers free 12 months after publication.

Articles made public under the new policy will carry an open-access license, and authors will retain copyright, another of Coalition S’s conditions.

AAAS said it will pilot the new policy for 1 year, allowing it to judge whether the policy causes revenues to suffer. University librarians and others might drop subscriptions if they can access research articles for free, Moran acknowledged. But he said some librarians have told him they value Science enough that they will continue to subscribe to help keep it going. Depending on how AAAS’s revenues fare, it might even consider expanding the policy to allow other kinds of authors to publish open access in the same way, he said.

In choosing the green route, the nonprofit AAAS (which also publishes ScienceInsider) deliberately chose not to expand its use of the so-called gold open-access business model, under which authors pay a fee to make a paper’s final, published version immediately free to read. A sixth AAAS journal, Science Advances, charges a fee of $4500 per paper for publishing articles under the gold model.

Had AAAS chosen to convert its flagship Science to the gold model, the likely publication fee would have been prohibitively expensive for many authors, especially those in poorer nations or working in disciplines with meager funding, Moran said. The fee would have been “along the same lines as, if not higher” than the top charge of €9900 per article that the Nature family of journals offered starting this month for gold open-access publication, as part of its response to the Coalition S mandate. Moran said Science would need to set a high fee in order to cover the staff costs involved. What’s more, he noted, like NatureScience does not collect publishing fees for articles not containing original research, such as news stories, commentaries, and reviews. (Science’s news department is editorially independent.)

AAAS’s new policy is not a radical departure from its previous one, which allowed authors to immediately archive the near-final version, called the author-accepted manuscript, on personal websites and in institutional repositories when the final version was published. The new policy extends this to allow authors to post in nonprofit, subject-based repositories, such as the U.S. National Institutes of Health’s PubMed Central.

AAAS is not the first nonprofit scientific society that publishes journals to have adopted such a policy. The Massachusetts Medical Society announced a similar approach in October 2020 for The New England Journal of Medicinecovering authors funded by Coalition S members. Other publishers with similar policies include the American Geophysical Union, American Society for Cell Biology, the Microbiology Society, and the Royal Society.

The Royal Society started a version of the policy several years ago, and “We see high levels of subscription renewals annually (typically > 95%),” wrote Stuart Taylor, its publishing director, in an email. But in a recent blog post, he and other officials at some other nonprofit societies, which otherwise support open access, voiced worries that details of Coalition S’s policy could actually slow the increase of open-access articles and have other negative consequences. The policy includes a provision that could allow authors to immediately archive a paper’s final version, not only the near-final one. That could undermine subscription revenues and give journals little incentive to help authors make more articles open access, they wrote.

What is more, the near-final version, although usually very similar to the final one, typically lacks some useful parts that are contained in the final version, such as supplementary materials. And posting the near-final versions can make it more difficult to ensure the integrity of the scientific record, the society officials wrote: Publishers typically add any corrections or retraction notices for a paper to its final version of record maintained on their websites. But some authors may not replace articles they archive with such updated versions.

“Green has never been an ideal route to open access [OA],” the blog writers said. “It is wholly reliant upon precisely the model that the OA movement was trying to overturn—namely subscriptions. … Green has been the workaround, not the desired endpoint.”


Why women don’t speak up on Zoom calls – and why that’s a problem

By SalM on February 3, 2021 in News, Women in Research

  • Women are systematically seen as less authoritative, study shows.
  • Gender biases still shape the rules of social engagement.
  • Changing the environment in the room – rather than changing women’s behaviour – should be the goal.

Diversity efforts may have given women a seat at the table – or, in the context of the pandemic, a place on the Zoom call – but that doesn’t necessarily mean they have a voice.

With working from home now the norm for many, a growing body of research is showing that it’s not become a leveller for meetings.

Almost half (45%) of US women business leaders surveyed in September said it was difficult for women to speak up in virtual meetings on platforms like Zoom, while one-in-five women felt they’d actually been ignored on such calls.

Researchers at Brigham Young University in the US found last year that the gender dynamics shutting down women remained prevalent, even in the most well-intentioned settings.

“Women are systematically seen as less authoritative,” Jessica Preece, associate professor in political science at BYU, told BYU Magazine.

“And their influence is systematically lower. And they’re speaking less. And when they’re speaking up, they’re not being listened to as much, and they are being interrupted more.”

So what’s going on?


Women ‘less influential’

Preece and her colleagues examined the female experience in a male-dominated collegiate accounting programme, in which women were typically enrolled with better grade point averages and more leadership experience than their male counterparts.

Students pass through the programme on teams, and administrators wanted to know how to best build these groups.

In teams where women were outnumbered, the researchers discovered they were routinely seen as the least competent and influential in the group.

The problem is not necessarily intentional bias or misogyny. It is instead a systemic problem with society that often sees cultural norms and gendered messages shaping the rules of engagement, explained Preece.

We have been “slowly socialized over years to discount” female expertise and perspectives, she said.

“It’s not women who are broken; it’s society that’s broken,” she added. “I’d like to see us focus on training people to be – and creating systems that are – supportive of women who speak up.”

This means the goal needs to be changing the environment in the room, actual or virtual, rather than women themselves – so that they are empowered and listened to.

“We have lots of learning and unlearning to do.”


Towards gender parity

Gender parity can affect whether or not economies and societies thrive, according to the World Economic Forum’s Global Gender Gap Report 2020 – particularly important as countries seek to build back better after the coronavirus pandemic.

McKinsey Global Institute’s 2015 Power of Parity report estimated that advancing women’s equality could add $13 trillion to global growth by 2025.

The Forum’s report saw improvement in educational attainment, and health and survival, with the gender gap closing by 96.1% and 95.7% respectively.

Women have been disproportionately impacted during COVID-19, according to McKinsey Global Institute, with greater job losses, often as a result of increasing unpaid care.

Helping women be heard

BYU researchers say that even small changes to make sure women in a meeting, or on a call, can fully contribute or express their views can make all the difference.

Positive interjections, such as “that’s an interesting point”, can elevate and help validate women’s voices in spaces where they may otherwise be lost, they added.

The goal is to create an environment in which women can be as influential as their authentic selves, says Preece.

“If we build a world in which women’s voices are valued and listened to, they will speak up without having to be told to.”

Source : World Economic Forum

The boom of non-profit associations for medical research in 2020

By SalM on February 2, 2021 in News

The pandemic has produced a profound health, economic, and social crisis, but it is also offering the opportunity to transform the way research is conducted and shared, accelerating those processes through which it will be increasingly possible to make science more open, efficient, and collaborative. In this exceptional situation, the activity of nonprofit medical research institutions stands out within the Third Sector, and they are playing a fundamental part in providing the resources necessary to achieve treatment goals.

In this post, we will explain the reasons for the boom that has resulted in investments in non-profit medical research associations during this year, highlighting the main trends that the diffusion of COVID-19 has triggered, strengthened, and radicalized in the field of science in general and the biomedical sector, specifically.

Non-profit medical research institutes at the center of a cultural change

This crisis is providing a lesson that we hope will not be forgotten in the years to come: rather than from a no-holds-barred competition, the most effective answers to the emergency are coming from global collaboration among the protagonists of research. It seems clear that efficiency can be gained only through a radical change of attitudes, means, and people: for this reason, collaboration must be able to proceed well beyond the laboratory, and all stakeholders must be involved: public and private, industry, institutions, and operators from civil society.

In the scientific field, we are experiencing a real cultural change that is destined to transform the way that different research projects are developed. At the center of this change, non-profit medical research institutes are increasingly asserting themselves. What trends have led to this position?

Four trends for creating a unique and interdependent ecosystem

The relationship between scientific research, territory, and community is mediated by national and international policies and is extremely articulated: it is based on scientific results (and on the publications that disseminate them), but to have concrete consequences, it needs to be implemented at different levels. To give rise to a unique ecosystem in which health and research are mutually dependent, it is necessary to implement a series of initiatives that serve to achieve:

  • Faster and more comprehensive data sharing
  • A set of metrics capable of translating the complexity of reality
  • A more comprehensive and representative definition of scientific excellence, and a new, more effective way to validate and distribute research results

  1. A free exchange of data. The Sars-CoV-2 virus does not respect borders: the urgency and ubiquity of the crisis have imposed practices of wider and greater sharing on the global community of researchers, encouraging them to operate with a multidisciplinary approach that connects different domains and different sectors. In such a context, which has become more fluid and inclusive, non-profit medical research associations and institutes have been able to assert one of their important constitutive qualities: the ability to function as an interface and point of contact between all parties (patients, volunteers, local and national economic, and political entities, international bodies). The free exchange of data, sharing knowledge otherwise destined to be guarded, is now more than ever a compulsory choice.
  2. New metrics that are more representative of a multi-stakeholder context. Conventional metrics that measure the impact of the research and innovation process on health and that traditionally express mainly scientific, economic, and financial dimensions are proving dramatically insufficient in representing the needs and requirements of the various actors involved. The development of a new theoretical and operational framework that can support integrated research must also take into account the value system, based on collective sustainability, of the Third Sector and, in particular, of the specificity of those organizations that have found themselves on the front lines of the crisis, namely the non-profit medical research institutes. Appropriate new metrics for assessing the impact of health research will therefore have to incorporate the interests of all stakeholders.
  3. A more inclusive definition of scientific excellence. For many years, the concept of “Responsible Research and Innovation” (RRI) has been at the center of the international debate on science and technology. According to one of the most well-known definitions, that of the philosopher René von Schomberg, Responsible Research and Innovation refers to a transparent and interactive process through which various societal actors and innovators interact to ensure that scientific and technological design can result in processes and products that are safe for humans and the environment, ethically acceptable, and responsive to the needs and wants of individuals and society. (Source: Responsible research is research that produces a positive impact on individuals and society as a whole. A participatory multi-stakeholder approach is certainly better equipped to answer a complex question because it does not evaluate results solely in terms of scientific excellence, but includes economic and social considerations, patient and community expectations, and the responses of those key nonprofit actors operating in the biomedical and health fields.
  4. More efficient ways of validating and communicating science. The common reflection of many editorials that have appeared in scientific journals in recent months is that the pandemic has contributed to a profound change in the way research is conducted and shared nationally and internationally (here we limit ourselves to pointing out articles that have appeared on and the Scientific American blog) The way research is validated and shared has remained virtually the same over decades. However, the spread of the COVID-19 virus seems destined to profoundly change the two main systems of judging and communicating results, i.e., in-person conferences, which for security reasons have been replaced with remote online meetings, and the peer review system. In the latter case, the evaluation and recognition mechanisms, which tended to be very slow (it can take from six to nine months before a scientist’s manuscript is peer reviewed and appears in a journal) have been greatly speeded up and simplified, so much so that in the first 5 months of COVID-19 emergency, scientific journals have published about 9,500 peer reviewed articles, with Italy in third place for number of publications (906) (source:

New ways of relating and communicating between funders, researchers, institutions, and states are shaping a type of science that will have to develop the tools, including technological ones, to guide the development of smarter systems and more resilient societies.

The future of science is therefore certainly international, interdisciplinary, and open. But such a future is only possible by continuing to involve all actors, among which there are certainly non-profit medical research institutions:

  • In the participatory practices of production and transmission of scientific knowledge
  • In the communication of information of general interest to civil society
  • In the management of fundraising for the various initiatives

Non-profit biennium 2018-2020: the growth of the Third Sector

The nonprofit medical research associations we discuss in this post are part of the Third Sector, which we generically refer to when we talk about the “nonprofit” world. The entities that fall under the umbrella term “Third Sector” (different from the First and Second Sectors, i.e., the market and the State) are private organizations with a statute that act on a non-profit basis with the purpose of social utility and can take different legal forms: voluntary organizations, foundations, cooperatives, etc. They are all private legal entities and expressions of civil society, which are created to provide essential services, especially at the local level. Often, in meeting the needs of civil society, they constitute an alternative to public and private bodies. (Source: Il Terzo Settore in Italia, Silvano Venditti, degree thesis).

Structure and profiles of the nonprofit sector

According to the latest Istat report that surveys the number of nonprofit institutions active in Italy and their main structural characteristics, the nonprofit sector is confirmed to be growing: as of December 31, 2018, there were 359,574 active nonprofit institutions in Italy and they employed 853,476 people overall. The number of nonprofit institutions is increasing with average annual growth rates that are substantially constant over time (around 2%).

In the March 2019 issue of the online magazine Vita Luca Carra and Sergio Cima, editors of, confirmed this trend, stating that, each year, about €300 million is invested in biomedical research by nonprofit entities. This is pure oxygen for the 35,000 researchers engaged in Italy to study and fight diseases. While this is not the most consistent contribution to medical research, the resources of nonprofits have two characteristics that are difficult to find in other types of funding: the rigorous and independent evaluation of projects and the competitive nature of calls for proposals, which reward the most deserving after an evaluation and selection conducted by groups of international experts, often foreign, so as to avoid academic groups and preferences that are independent of the quality of the research proposed.

The world of non-profit medical research institutes, together with patients’ associations, is therefore a fast-growing world that often offers decisive support to scientific studies, thanks to fundraising, public awareness initiatives, and indications provided to researchers.

2020: Italian nonprofits during the pandemic

Italians have responded with generosity to the COVID-19 emergency, multiplying donations to non-profit organizations in the health and hospital sectors. However, the situation also presents some notable criticalities: for many third sector organizations, fundraising has increased, while for others, their very survival is at risk. While, on the one hand, there has been a historical peak in online donations and aid amounting to over €650 million has been mapped, on the other hand, 78% of the over 600 organizations interviewed by declare that they have more than halved their activities.

The results of the monitoring #ILDONONSIFERMA presented by the Italian Institute of Donation (IID) on the trend of fundraising by nonprofit organizations in Italy confirm a generally mixed picture: in the first quarter of 2020, 24% of the population would have made a donation in the field of health and hospitals, equal to about 10-12 million Italians, with an increase of about 30% compared to donations for scientific research, health and equivalents of the previous year. The health sector and the theme of health therefore definitely catalyze the attention of donors.

The data also shows a great ability of Italian nonprofits to adapt to a rapidly changing context: 24% of the entities contacted for the survey managed to avoid suspending services through the adoption of digital and remote channels and tools, transforming “action in the field into a remote relationship,” compared to 7% who had to suspend their activities completely (source: L’impatto dell’emergenza sulle donazioni).

Finally, reported evidence that emerged from a survey carried out between April and June 2020 by Italia Non Profit and Assifero, interviewing almost 1,400 subjects (Non Profit Philanthropy Social Good Covid-19 Report): in addition to 975 initiatives mapped by 722 donors, €785 million in funds were raised between April and July 2020.

The article mentioned that lockdowns halted some fundraising activities and campaigns,  and that 41% of nonprofits expect revenue to be reduced by more than 50% by 2020 (and for another 38%t, it will be reduced significantly). By 2021, they believe that a real transformation will be needed, one that diversifies revenue funds and investment in capacity building.

Future perspectives of nonprofit medical research institutions during the COVID emergency

In an article published in late June 2020, Paola Zaratin writes that Third Sector nonprofit organizations have demonstrated strategic competencies in addressing the COVID-19 pandemic, performing a subsidiary task to the state, and integrating these competencies not only into health and social care but also into research.” These competencies include:

  • Democratization of access to knowledge (Open access knowledge)
  • Science education
  • Strengthening of collaborations with multiple actors (multi-stakeholder)
  • Improvement in the capacity for transferring the results of scientific research
  • Involvement of patients
  • Activation of public policies based on “scientific evidence”
  • Collecting funding to invest in the development of innovative models of sustainability

For this reason, Third Sector organizations, including non-profit medical research institutions, “that support responsible research and innovation and thus operate in the collective interest” have earned “a more relevant recognition and role” but will immediately begin to gear up to exceed to transform their fundraising strategies, embrace digital and diversify their approach so as to use a wider range of channels. The effort will need to be directed on multiple fronts.

According to Il Sole24ore (source), the initiatives that nonprofit organizations plan to implement once the emergency is over will focus on:

  • Fundraising (19.9%)
  • The creation of financial reserves for future crises (16%)
  • Investing in brand awareness (15.2%) and training (13.4%)
  • Investing in building capacity (12.7%)

In light of the problems that will affect nonprofits in the immediate future, the challenge then is to strengthen the entire sector, in economic terms by raising sufficient funds, and in terms of awareness.

Source: doxee

EU Cohesion policy invests in Poland’s research and innovation network

By SalM on October 27, 2020 in News

The European Commission has approved an investment of over €71 million from the European Regional Development Fund (ERDF) for the establishment of a fibre-optic network and research equipment to improve cooperation among research laboratories in Poland. This project aims to enhance the quality of academic research and to ensure closer cooperation between industry and academia, leading to greater market uptake of research results.

Cohesion and Reforms Commissioner Elisa Ferreira said: “With this investment, cohesion policy will support Poland in becoming more innovative in a competitive global market. As the coronavirus crisis is showing us, cooperation among research centres is crucial to offer innovative solutions in a rapidly changing and challenging world”.

The project involves 21 research partners. Their laboratories will be provided with the equipment according to eight fields of specialisation, from data transmission and storage, atomic clocks and smart cities to e-learning and multi-scale simulation. The project is expected to include the filing of 21 patents, the publication of 84 scientific papers, 342 PhD candidates using the facilities, and the creation of five spin-off companies.

European Researchers’ Night 2020

By SalM on October 27, 2020 in News

Learn how research is fighting cancer, combatting diseases and viruses, stopping global warming, working for sustainable development, contributing to Artificial Intelligence-related findings, and tackling challenges for a better life. Meet researchers and discover the fascinating world of science in a fun and interactive environment – with family or on your own.

The European Researchers’ Night, funded under the Marie Skłodowska-Curie actions, is a Europe-wide public event that brings researchers closer to the public. The European Researchers’ Night showcases the diversity of science and its impact on citizens’ daily lives, stimulating interest in research careers – particularly among young people. In 2019, it attracted 1.6 million visitors across more than 400 cities in Europe and beyond.

This year, children, young people and families will meet researchers and discover research, science and innovation through hands-on experiments, science shows, games, quizzes, competitions, exhibitions, and digital activities.

The event will take place in 29 countries on Friday 27 November 2020.

In Israel the event will take place on 3 December 2020.

Get involved!

Are you a researcher passionate about science communication and outreach to a broad public? Contact the European Researchers’ Night 2020 taking place near you to see how to get involved.

Follow the event on social media

Visit the following social media sites to stay up to date. Share your thoughts with the twitter hashtags #EuropeanResearchersNight and #MSCANight.

Find more information on the European Researchers’ Night

Table of events

Country Event
Austria Forschung begreifen (Understanding Science and Research)
LifeisScience- Identification of scientific contents in the daily life
Bosnia and Herzegovina European Researchers’ Night in Bosnia and Herzegovina 2020
Belgium Science journey in a world of transition(s)
Bulgaria Find Research Everywhere, SHare and expERience
Researchers in the Knowledge Triangle
Cyprus European Reseachers’ Night – The Night Deal
Czech Republic Czech European Researchers’ Night 2020
Germany Nacht der Wissenschaft in der Kiel Region 2020
Denmark Sense, Science and the Magic of Food
Greece Attractive REsearchers in the Spotlight
Spain Building science among all, the key role of researchers 
Catalan European Researchers’ Night
Macaronesia’s Researchers’ Night
Open Researchers 2020
Wanderlust is the passion for discovering
Finland Tutkijoiden yö
France Little Nocturne Secrets
Georgia Science is the Captain
Hungary Fascinating World of Researchers in the Age of Technology – Mission of Researchers to Expand New Horizons
Ireland Cork Discovers – Discover your changing world
Start Talking About Research Today: European Researchers’ Night at Trinity College Dublin
Israel European Researchers’ Night Israel 2020
Italy BRIGHT-NIGHT – Researchers’ impact in everyday Life
European Researchers’ Night Apulia 2020 – Discovering the fascinating world of research
ScieNcE Together
SHAring Researchers’ Passion for Evolving Responsibilities
Society behind the Horizon
SuperScienceMe – REsearch is your R-Evolution – European Researchers’ Night
Moldova Fostering science and innovation impact through organisation in Moldova of European Researchers’ Night
Montenegro Montenight2020 – Imagine future
Malta Science in the City
Poland Scientists from various fields teach us how to care for the planet on a daily basis
European Researchers’ Night 2020 in Malopolska (Malopolska Researchers’ Night 2020)
Portugal Science and nature
Macaronesia’s Researchers’ Night
Romania Doing Research Midnight in ROmania
Researchers for Humanity 2020
Science promotion in Bistita-Nasaud county (online only)
Serbia Research, Connections, Networks and Culture – Use of Projects, Games, Research And Digital in Education
Science in Motion for Friday Night Commotion 2020
Road to Friday of Science 3.0
Sweden European Researchers’ Night in Sweden 2020: ForskarFredag (Researchers’ Friday) 2020.
Slovenia Humanities Rock! – Humans and Research
Noč ima svojo moč (The Night has its Might), European Researchers’ Night
Slovakia Festival of Science European Researchers Night 2020 in Slovakia
Tunisia Tunisian Researchers’ and Citizens’ Green Deal
United Kingdom European Researchers’ Night Cymru – Making a Difference in Wales
EXPLORATHON 2020 (online only)
Futures 2020

Associated events

Country Event
Spain Mediterranean Researchers’ Night
EnhAncing Resilience Through Humanity



National policies and certification good practices: the CASPER State of the Art analysis is out!

By SalM on October 27, 2020 in News, Women in Research

The CASPER team proudly presents the “State of the Art Analysis: mapping the awarding certification landscape in Higher Education and Research” (D3.3).

This report is the result of the exploration exertion of an organization in excess of 30 worldwide scientists. Such exertion was facilitated, curated, and created by the Smart Venice group with the commitment of Oxford Brookes University and Yellow Window. The exploration spread over across 33 nations (the 27 EU nations in addition to Australia, Iceland, Norway, Switzerland, the United Kingdom, and the United States of America) to reveal great practices in accreditation and granting plans for gender correspondence, particularly with regards to Higher Education Institutions (HEIs) and Research associations. Also, the exploration zeroed in on acquiring a diagram of the principal arrangements and measures received at the public level to incorporate gender equity in Research and Higher Education.

The outcome is a reference-rich examination of the scene in which a potential European-level confirmation or grant plot (CAS) for gender uniformity in Research could create. With 114 CAS for gender uniformity and variety which target research associations, private organizations and public organizations inspected in detail, the report gives an effectively traversable assortment of intriguing practices, isolated by the nation of inception, with an uncommon spotlight on cross-public plans.

The report shows that the European one is a great climate for the improvement of a CAS, with a general positive pattern in the reception of CAS for HEIs and Research in the most recent years. In any case, it likewise presents a lopsided scene, where nations have various degrees of usage of gender balance approaches in research and Higher Education along with various needs on the issue. While a general investigation is given in the initial segment of the report, the different degrees of incorporation of gender fairness in the nations’ public strategies and systems are depicted in detail in the report’s Country Sheets. The sheets examine the public settings giving knowledge on the fundamental approaches, structures, and practices which manage the joining of gender fairness in their exploration and Higher Education systems.

The report’s general examination gives an overall point of view on the current confirmations and grants rehearses. Among its discoveries, there is the inclination of CAS zeroing in on HE and Research to utilize self-appraisal as the passage point in the application cycle, regularly with inner gender investigation as an initial step. Such a methodology is by all accounts urged to advance inside change, as this investigation regularly functions as a base for reformist improvement, which is frequently surveyed by outer specialists or companions. Concerning models for granting CAS, the presence of sufficient preparing, enrollment, hostile to provocation, and work-life balance arrangements are the most widely recognized models. An intersectional way to deal with gender uniformity, which is additionally advanced by the most recent European arrangements’ turns of events, is available just in a (anyway applicable) minority of CAS.

Taking everything into account, the State of the Art report is a rich and exhaustive archive that advises the CASPER situations with flow structure information and great practices to take motivation from; it is likewise an animating perused for scientists intrigued by public approaches in regards to gender correspondence in Research and Higher Education; lastly, it is a cutting-edge, enlightening assortment of accessible CAS on gender fairness, variety, and consideration.

Nason, Giulia, and Maria Sangiuliano. 2020. “State of the Art Analysis: Mapping the Awarding Certification Landscape in Higher Education and Research,” June. 


How the EU may support and enable universities’ ongoing transformations

By SalM on October 23, 2020 in News

“Towards a 2030 Vision on the Future of Universities in Europe” study sets out a stakeholder-driven, strategic Vision 2030 for the future of universities in Europe in research and innovation.

Recognising Europe’s diverse university landscape, the study considers the extent to which – and how – universities’ ongoing transformations might best be supported through EU support (e.g. policy changes, funding, legal mechanisms).

The Vision is underpinned by European values, such as respecting institutional autonomy and academic freedom, scientific and research excellence by exploiting universities’ investments in fundamental research, delivery societally-relevant research, maintaining trust, equality of opportunity and inclusivity, and openness based on reciprocity from third countries (e.g. through open science, open access and open data approach in which Europe excels).

The study assignment, “Towards a 2030 Vision on the Future of Universities in Europe” was commissioned by the European Commission’s Directorate-General for Research and Innovation (DG RTD). It was undertaken by the Centre for Strategy & Evaluation Services LLP (CSES), supported a team of high-level experts composed of academics and ex-academics.

Europe’s university landscape comprises more than 5000 universities and is characterised by its heterogeneity. The Vision provides an enabling, non-prescriptive framework, which recognises the imperative of maintaining the autonomy of universities and ensuring the principle of academic freedom. It also embodies the values
provided in EU primary legislation, which will underpin the Vision’s implementation.

Accordingly, the Vision – and the transformation modules that underpin it – need to be flexible enough to accommodate differences between universities. These include the degree of emphasis on their different missions (e.g. educational, teaching, research and innovation, societal), the extent of their existing contribution and future capacity to contribute to excellent science, and their different disciplinary and inter-disciplinary strengths.

Reflecting this diversity, the Vision seeks to support universities and to enable them to autonomously determine their own developmental needs and pathways towards the achievement of the 2030 Vision.
Given that the Vision covers a broad range of issues, challenges and opportunities for universities between now and 2030, an effort was made to build a consensus among stakeholders. However, whilst the analysis presented in the report has been closely informed by desk research, stakeholder events and feedback from the university networks, there are divergent viewpoints in some areas. This reflects different viewpoints among different types of universities in Europe and variance in the baseline situation in terms of how strong particular universities are in the research and innovation domain already, and what progress remains.

As such, the study represents the authors’ best efforts to establish a degree of consensus on the main priorities for universities in Europe.

In parallel with the publication of the revitalised European Research Area (ERA) Communication 2020, this report is designed to provide inspiration for the development of an EU policy framework on the future of universities in the fields of research and innovation. The study, therefore, provides an important starting point to inform the policy debate on a possible follow-up Communication on the Future of Universities in Europe to 2030 in 2021. This could set out in greater detail how Europe might best support and further enable universities’ ongoing transformations, building on the section of the new ERA Communication which addresses this topic.

Read the whole study here. 

Building structure in cross-sectoral collaborations

By SalM on October 22, 2020 in News

Institutional structure is crucial to the success of a cross-sectoral collaboration. Building such a structure is an on-going and complex process and not a one-time exercise.

The experiences from the RiConfigure Social Labs and Dialogue Days suggest a list of structural elements that partners in a collaboration should attend to in order to make it thrive:

  1. The financial framework – financial resources and their distribution naturally affects the nature of collaborations. Partners should be aware that their financial contributions are closely related to (often tacit) power structures, which manifests themselves in agenda setting, decision power and inclusion/exclusion from the collaboration. Moreover, civil society often lack financial resources, which is why external funding that is often stable and equally distributed is a powerful means to achieve a successful quadruple helix collaboration.
  2. Collaboration constellation – the order in which partners enter into the collaboration is central to its structure. Partners should be aware that the initiating actor often has a decisive impact on the structure of the collaboration and that civil society is often the last one to enter leaving its actors with a more peripheral role.
  3. Legal and governance frameworks – clear guidelines support collaboration. These might include non-disclosure agreements, letters of intent and written workplans but also agreements with external actors such as funding agencies or governance boards. However, partners should be aware that familiarity with these types of agreement varies. They might especially be new to civil society actors.
  4. Common vision and shared goals – these should be ensured to help overcoming collaboration barriers. Common vision and shared goals both apply to the concrete collaboration working toward a certain value output, but it also implies wider goals such as national R&I strategies or the UN SDGs. Idealist perspectives might also motivate collaboration.
  5. Regular reflection – cross-sectoral collaboration is complex involving a variety of people, cultures, practices, geographical distances etc. Consequently, partners should prioritize regular reflection in order to help aligning goals, building trust, fostering transparency, and overcoming communication barriers and power gaps.

In addition to this, participants of the RiConfigure Dialogue provided the following recommendations for policy that could ease the efforts of building structure:

  1. Increase funding for inclusive collaboration that allows adaptation and experimentation as well as support- and training structures.
  2. Raise awareness of collaborative innovation and challenge the dominance of ‘business orientation’.
  3. Support collaborative efforts as opposed to stakeholder engagement.
  4. Pluralize the understanding of civil society, establishing a continuum from civil society organizations to less privileged publics.