Starting the Process
Why these guidelines
Responsible Research and Innovation (RRI) and Open Science (OS) have been increasingly proposed to scientists and research organisations as the new framework for science. Although partially different, they share the same basic aim of modifying the consolidated social model of science – often expressed with the image of the “Ivory Tower” – which sees it as separated and autonomous from society and not involved with the actual implications and use of its outputs, be they new theories, discoveries, or technologies.
RRI and OS propose to go on the opposite direction, i.e., towards a science fully embedded in society, intimately involved in and responsible for its impacts, being they positive or negative, on economy and society at large, open to the external actors and sensitive towards expectations, needs, worries and problems of society. As we will see, this process of change is even more complex than usually presented, affecting all the aspects of science and being part of a broader change which is profoundly modifying contemporary societies in the shift from modernity to the so-called post-modernity.
However, this process is not free of problems, uncertainties, and risks. This is due to at least three different reasons.
Firstly, just because of the move towards post-modern society, research organisations are already exposed to strong change processes, from both inside and outside, which are modifying their culture, procedures, decision processes and organisational structures. In many cases, changes are not planned or oriented through policies and measures but simply borne by researchers and managers. Moreover, they are not necessarily consistent with each other. In such a framework, for research managers and scientists, implementing RRI/OS principles in their organization and research practices reveal to be a complex, uncertain and time-spending process the results of which are difficult to predict (for more information, go to Part One, Chapter One).
Secondly, RRI and OS are not univocally interpreted. There are many different ways to define concepts and dimensions of RRI and OS and many different methods, tools, and approaches have been proposed in order to put RRI and OS into practice. Consequently, researchers and stakeholders perceive that the usual governance structure and the ordinary practices related to scientific production are weakening, but they are also uncertain about what will occur next. Similarly, research institutions start to modify their practices and internal structure to adapt to the occurring changes, but often in an uncoordinated way and with little awareness about the expected results (for more information, go to Part One, Chapter Two).
Thirdly, implementing RRI and OS necessarily creates tensions and conflicts. They are expected, e.g., to alter existing social configurations and power relations, to create new figures and leadership positions and to establish new criteria for hiring and promotion. Only rarely these transformations occur smoothly, following a linear path without encountering obstacles and resistance (for more information, go to Part One, Chapter Two).
These Guidelines are intended to deal with this complex set of issues, starting from a simple question: how to effectively embed RRI and OS in research organisations?
There are many and detailed “guidance-like” documents available now to help researchers and research managers implement RRI and OS or important components of them, such as open access, gender equality or innovation programmes targeting societal challenges. However, the majority of these documents tend to overlook how it is difficult implementing RRI and OS for research organisations already exposed to rapid and sometimes painful transformations and therefore the need to also provide orientations on how making RRI and OS practically feasible for them.
These guidelines do not purport to offer ready-made solutions to this problem since ready-made solutions simply do not exist. Rather, its main aim is to propose a pathway – in which the users of the guidelines necessarily should play a proactive and creative role – for activating institutional change processes towards RRI and OS in their organisation in a way that is as feasible, sustainable and useful as possible.
In this perspective, a key concept which will be used in the Guidelines will be that of governance setting (for more information, go to Part Two, Chapter Four). This concept refers to a coordinated set of actions serving as a starter to implement RRI and OS or part of them in a given research organisation. Therefore, the focus is on the first steps to take for creating in the research organisation the minimal conditions necessary to ensure that an evolutionary process towards RRI/OS can take place.
In this sense, these Guidelines are very limited in scope and time. They are limited in scope since they only focus on how to start the institutional change process and do not say anything about the long-term objectives the research organisation can pursue through RRI and OS. They are limited in time since they are focused only on a programme – the governance setting process – which is expected to proceed for a short period (from some months to two or three years) with quite limited resources.
In general, the Guidelines can be useful for all those interested in promoting RRI and OS at any level, including, e.g., policymakers, science centres, technology developers or private firms. However, as it is easily understandable, the main targets of these Guidelines are the European research funding and performing organizations of any kind (universities, research labs, funding agencies, governmental research agencies, etc.) since they are increasingly asked to introduce institutional changes towards RRI and OS and are exposed the most to the transformations affecting science. Within research organisations, the Guidelines are directed at all the actors and stakeholders potentially involved in making RRI and OS real, i.e.:
- Top and middle managers
(including, e.g., directors, members of the different Boards, research/teaching Committees, etc.)
- Heads of key offices or units
(Communication Department, Human Resources Department, University Liaison Office, etc.)
- Heads of Departments or Research Units
- Individual researchers
How these guidelines were made
The Guidelines are one the main products of the project “Fostering Improved Training Tools for Responsible Research and Innovation - FIT4RRI”, co-funded by the EU DG Research and Innovation under Horizon 2020 and coordinated by Sapienza University of Rome.
FIT4RRI has been conceived and developed with the aim of better understanding and coping with the serious difficulties RRI and OS are encountering in being embedded in research organizations, which has been producing for years now a serious gap between the potential role RRI and OS could play and the actual impacts they are having on research organization and research systems.
To cope with these issues, the first strand of the project was devoted to go in-depth into the general trends affecting science and to identify barriers to and drivers of RRI and OS.
Different actions have been developed, including a wide literature review on these topics; an inventory of RRI and OS advanced experiences; a benchmarking exercise allowing to single out a group of enablers leading RRI/OS-oriented experiences to results; a set of workshops involving researchers, managers, and other stakeholders aimed at profiling how RRI and OS both in general and in some specific research sectors are perceived, interpreted, and practically applied; an analysis of RRI and OS-related dynamics in different research sectors.
The second strand of FIT4RRI was aimed at testing RRI/OS practices and approaches so as to collect first-hand information about barriers to and facilitating factors for the implementation of a responsible and open science. Four experiments have been conducted, one in Italy, one in Portugal and two in the UK, in different research settings and pursuing different objectives related to RRI and OS.
Together with these activities, an extended action has been conducted for mapping the online training materials on RRI and OS and creating a state-of-the-art eLearning environment by adapting and enlarging an already existing eLearning platform.
The outputs of these actions, to a different extent, provided the theoretical and empirical basis for the Guidelines.
- The literature review and the analysis of research sectors contributed to defining the theoretical and interpretive basis of the Guidelines
- The workshops with researchers, research managers and stakeholders gave important insights about how RRI and OS are perceived, interpreted, and actually practised by researchers, administrative staff, and leaders in different research settings
- The benchmarking exercise helped identify some of the key strategies adopted in activating successful governance setting processes
- Finally, the inventory of RRI and OS advanced experiences and the four experiments conducted in the second strand of the project allowed to access empirical materials about what really happens when someone starts introducing RRI/OS principles and practices in a research context.
Other materials have been also used to give real-life examples of applying RRI and OS in research organisations.
All these theoretical and empirical elements have been used to shape the different parts of the text. An attempt has been made to distill them into a set of 21 recommendations, developed on the basis of a reflection within the team in charge of the Guidelines. Three main choices have been done in developing the recommendations. The first one has been that of focusing the recommendations on the “essential”, i.e., the basic requirements and the most recurrent risks connected with the development of RRI-oriented actions. The second choice has been that of presenting the recommendations in a way as practical and plain as possible and to keep their number limited so as to make them a user-friendly tool for managers and leaders of research organisations. The third choice has been that of identifying some recommendations for all the steps and phases of the governance setting process, thus helping the reader to also perceive the process as a whole.
How to use these guidelines
The Guidelines on governance settings for a responsible science are organised in three parts.
PART ONE – Guidelines for interpretation. This part is aimed at providing orientations for interpreting RRI and OS in general and in one’s organisation. It includes two chapters. Chapter One accounts for the deep transformations which have been involving science for the last decades, thus providing the context in which any reasoning on RRI and OS should be placed. Chapter Two introduces the concepts of RRI and OS and propose a reflection on how to start to use them for making the first diagnosis of one's research organisation.
PART TWO – Guidelines for decision. This part is intended to help the readers to identify and take the basic decisions to activate the governance setting process. Two chapters are included in this part. Chapter Three focuses on the issues to consider in order to decide if, why and to what extent implementing RRI and OS. Chapter Four concerns the decisions to take about the most appropriate governance setting model to adopt.
PART THREE – Guidelines for action. This part concerns the application of a governance setting model. This part includes three chapters. Chapter Five deals with how to activate the governance setting, Chapter Six how to implement it and Chapter Seven how to shift from the governance setting process to a long-term institutional change perspective.
The Guidelines are made up of:
The main text contains the key messages and the basic information necessary to understand them. It can be therefore read as an autonomous text. The length of the main text has been kept as short as possible to facilitate a rapid reading of the core of the Guidelines.
As we said above, the main text is organised in three parts, in turn including two or three chapters each. In order to facilitate the reading, each chapter adopts a recurrent scheme, articulated in four sections.
- Rationale: a short description of the contents of the chapter.
- What is at stake: a short description of what is at stake with the issue dealt with, in consideration of possible risks and opportunities.
- Key issues: a description of the key issues the chapter encompasses, also in practical terms for the readers.
- Recommendations: a set of recommendations for the readers to manage the issues presented in the chapter.
From the main text, through specific links, it is possible to access a set of resources of different types, including, e.g.:
- Conceptual models and schemes
- Quotations from relevant authors
- Real-life experiences
- Links to documents and resources available online.