Social Lab 17 – Workshop 1

Date: 24 & 25 September 2018

Venue: Ispra, Italy


In total 19 persons participated the workshop in Ispra; five participants participated either only on the first or the second day; all others were present on both days. Of the 19 participants, eight were female and 11 men, whereas most of them were approximately aged between 35 and 60 years. Participants had various national backgrounds across Europe and beyond. Most of them were Ispra based at the time of the workshop.


The first social lab 17 workshop (JRC) was realized in September 2018 at the JRC site in Ispra. The workshop was organized in cooperation with JRC. While the participants mainly debated challenges for science and the JRC related to questions of governance, the envisioned pilot ideas mainly address questions of citizen and stakeholder engagement.
The idea of mainstreaming RRI was widely embraced among the group but there were also concerns and rejection of this idea. While the sample of workshop participants was widely open to ideas such as RRI, there were also other (traditional) understandings of science present which reveals the heterogeneity of opinions within large institutions such as JRC. One repeatedly addressed example was stakeholder and citizen engagement which was widely embraced during the discussion. However, inclusive approaches were, at the same time, linked to fears about a loss of independence of science.

Most RRI challenges named by the group were governance related. This might stem from the governance needs of such a large institution that is, at the same time, part of the EC. Beyond that, JRC has undergone a fundamental governance transformation within the last years (JRC 2030 strategy) which indeed caused new constellations and challenges for JRC at the governance level. The necessity for breaking silos and for cooperation across units and beyond JRC was repeatedly mentioned during the workshop. This is exactly one major aim of the JRC 2030 strategy.
It is, however, surprising that pilots hardly touched questions of governance and rather mainly address public engagement. One explanation is that stakeholder and citizen engagement is an easier and more feasible task in practice. Another possible explanation links to some feedback that emphasized that unfolding governance questions of large European institutions are indeed political and can thus cause unease.

The workshop was characterized by intense debates and revealed different understandings about how science should be governed. We observed openness towards concepts such as RRI during the debates and we see this in line with the current restructuring of JRC. However, there was also reluctance and rejection to RRI and more inclusive approaches to research. We are confident that the pilots will impact the JRC project these link to and it is to be seen how far this impact spreads across JRC.