Wednesday 17

Roger Strand: “RRI is a window of criticism, it is a dissident discourse”

Posted by Núria Saladié on 17 Jun 2015

This Monday 8th of June Roger Strand visited Universitat Pompeu Fabra (Barcelona) and gave a talk on the origin, definition and application of Responsible Research and Innovation (RRI). Strand is a professor at the University of Bergen (Norway), and Chairman in 2014 of the European Commission Expert Group on Indicators for RRI.

Roger Strand talk on RRI in Universitat Pompeu Fabra (Barcelona)

He has coordinated two European Union projects of the 7th Framework Programme and has been commissioned by the Council of Europe to write a report on how to deal with the ethical challenges of new and emerging technologies.

To start the session, Strand exposed an obvious contradiction of RRI: on the one hand, it is vital at an institutional level and for new EU projects; but on the other hand, it is a rather unknown term among the scientific community and the general public. He explained what the concept of RRI entails from an EU perspective but also analyzed some of the sentences of its definition to prove that it is still quite an ambiguous term.

Strand, together with Gema Revuelta (CCS-UPF) and eight more high-profile experts, form the Steering Committee that wrote on November 2014 the proposal for the Rome Declaration on Responsible Research and Innovation in Europe, a call on all stakeholders "to work together for inclusive and sustainable solutions to our societal challenges". This was not the first time that Strand and Revuelta worked together: both have participated in the Expert Group on Policy Indicators for RRI (being Strand the Chairman of the group). Moreover, they have also been granted recently the European project HEIRRI (Higher Education Institutions and Responsible Research and Innovation), that aims at introducing RRI inside the university education of future scientists and engineers and that is coordinated by UPF.

Governance of Risk was also commented by Strand, who explained that it may sound reckless to give funding to a changing and unpredictable field such as Research and Innovation; with the Governance of Risk, this can be done because it is understood that R&I can contribute positively to society. The debate on RRI is alive and on-going, as philosophers and policy-makers still discuss some of its aspects. Strand also did a brief summary of the historical references that have led to the current RRI definition, such as the ELSI/ELSA in the 1980s and the Code of conduct for responsible nanosciences and nanotechnologies research in 2008.

After the talk, there was an open debate among attendees. A member of the audience asked if there were any cases of real applications of RRI, transmitting with the question a hint of scepticism. The debate also revolved around soft and hard governance, the politics behind science, GMO, vaccines, trust and public understanding of science. Strand concluded the session saying that RRI is "a window to criticism, a dissident discourse", because science has always been surrounded by society and now finally this is being taking into account with RRI.

The talk was held in the framework of the masters' programme on science communication imparted by UPF-IDEC. Apart from the students of the programme, professionals on the field of science communication and RRI also attended the session.

Núria Saladié

Núria Saladié is the international projects coordinator at the Science, Communication and Society Studies Centre from Universitat Pompeu Fabra

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