New HoRRIzons RRI Network first workshop in Tallinn, Estonia

On April 3, New HoRIzons RRI Networks first workshop was held in Tallinn, Estonia. The aim was to explain the concept of RRI, map existing practices, and agree on future cooperation. The target audience were representatives from organizations, which belong to Estonian RTD System (funding organizations, ministries, research support services at universities). The event was inspired by news that had passed through the media on the same day, where it was announced that state-owned companies had joined the Declaration of Responsible Entrepreneurship.

Prior the workshop the survey was conducted, which aimed to map the RRI’s position in Estonia’s main research and innovation organizations.  The RRI as a comprehensive system has so far only been addressed by projects funded by the EU Framework Program (Inquiry Awards for Youth over Europe: Ark of Inquiry, Promoting Attainment of Responsible Research and Innovation in Science Education: PARRISE, RRI TOOLS, a project to foster Responsible Research and Innovation for society, with society, Marine Knowledge Sharing Platform for Federating Responsible Research and Innovation Communities: MARINA, Excellence in science and innovation for Europe by adopting the concept of Responsible Research and Innovation: NewHoRRIzon, Technology with and for Society: HubIT). Here I would come up with one result from Ark of Inquiry project that gives a good overview of RRI trends –a literature review paper in Science and Engineering Ethics[1]. This paper outlines (as of 2017) the main RRI directions that are reflected in the scientific literature: a) Involvement of different parties; b) Operability – responding to scientific and technological achievements; c) Reflection – reflecting scientific achievements; (d) Prevention – anticipating the effects of RDI; e) Sustainability – a situation in which the needs of present and future generations are covered, taking into account social, economic, cultural, environmental aspects; f) Care – a person takes responsibility for his or her actions and decisions.

The different components of RRI (engagement, ethics, gender, science education, open access, governance) have been addressed, but rather disproportionately. More about the current situation:
Engagement: a) existence of strong mediators network – Department of Science Communication at Estonian Research Council, Estonian Society of Science Journalists, science centres; b) Estonian Science Communication Award –  to acknowledge and draw attention to individuals who promote science in Estonia, as well as boost the activities that introduce science and technology to the general public.
Ethics:  a) the University of Tartu Ethics Centre operates from 2001. It deals with ethical research, teaching, and dissemination. Centre manages the Ethics Portal; b) implemented codes (Estonian Code of Ethics for Researchers (2002). Estonian Code of Conduct for Research Integrity (2017), ethical codes of different universities/colleges); c) existence of  different ethics committees (research&professional); d) ethics as criteria is part in research funding, evaluation and accreditation; e) the components of research ethics are implemented in curricula; f) exist international cooperation (Science Europe, ENRIO).
Gender:  a) the interdisciplinary Gender Studies Research Group at Tallinn University; b) gender is in evaluation criteria (Applied research in smart specialisation growth areas: NUTIKAS); c) Statistical data are available; d) exist international cooperation ( Science Europe, RINGS, GEARING-Roles).
Science education: a) the University of Tartu Centre for Science Education – the only research centre for science education in Estonia; b) exist Science Communication Programme to increasing the appreciation of science, technology and engineering among the youth and society in general; c) Portal, which aims to increase young people’s interest in STEM fields and related career options; d) the variety of national acknowledgements and competitions (national student research competitions and national contests of young inventors, Young Scientists’ Festival); e) Young Scientists’ Association; f) Research and Technology Pact; g) exist international cooperation (EU STEM Coalition, EUCYS).
Open access: a) OA is mentioned Knowledge-based Estonian strategy;  b) Open Science in Estonia – Principles and Recommendations for Developing National Policy since 2016; c) DataCite Estonian Consortium since 2015; d) Research publications – the Estonian Research Information System (ETIS), established as state register in 2006;  the publishing costs in open-access journals (article processing charge) are eligible, and can be compensated by grants; e) Active research libraries (DataDOI, ORCID, data management plan); f) OA is in evaluation criteria (Personal research funding); g) exist international cooperation (Science Europe, IFLA, euroCRIS, EIFL).
Knowledge-based governance: a) the Good Practice of Engagement on Ministries’ Websites; b) broad-based decision-making bodies (Research and Development Council, Research Policy Commission, Commission for Innovation Policy.

During following discussion, several recommendations were raised:

  1. A systemic approach is required for the implementation of RRI; there should be a linkage between its components. For example, the formation of decision-making bodies has not been gender balanced (Research and Development Council – a total of 12 members, including 11 men and 1 woman; Research Policy Commission – a total of 20 members, including 13 men and 7 women;  Commission for Innovation Policy – a total of 14 members, including 12 men and 2 women).
  2. There is obviously a need for a citizens’ science program. It can be a co-financing instrument to support other programs from an RRI perspective.
  3. It would be advisable to create a working group, or network, etc., to coordinate and develop activities in the field of RRI.
  4. The presences of RRI components as criteria are sporadic in different funding instruments. The criteria need to be harmonized.

The rosin on the cake was a presentation of Professor Arto Mustajoki Principles of the new approach to research ethics.

The future Framework Program and the rather unclear position of RRI were inevitable in the discussion of the future of RRI. Its presence mainly on Widening participation and sharing excellence part raises many concerns[2]. As we see from Figure 1, the elements of RRI are relatively new concepts in the Framework Program.

Occurrance of the words “ethics”, “gender”, “responsible” in the legal texts of the Official Journal of the European Communities, related to the Framework Programme [3]

By Ülle Must from Archimedes Foundation

[1] Burget, M., Bardone, E., Pedaste, M. (2017). Definitions and Conceptual Dimensions of Responsible Research and Innovation: A Literature Review. Science and Engineering Ethics, 23 (1), 1-19.
[2] Mazzonetto, M., Simone, A. (2018). Introduction  to “Science, society and citizens: suggestions (and hopes) on how to foster RRI in Horizon Europe”. Journal of Science Communication, 17(03).
[3] Decisions and Resolutions of the European Parliament and of the Council concerning the framework programme of the European Community (OJ C 208/1, OJ L 302 / 1, OJ L 117 / 28 , OJ L 126/1 , OJ L 26/1, OJ L 232/1, OJ L 412/1, OJ L 347/104