Monday 13

To be or not be... responsible - that is the question

Posted by Ruse Chamber of Commerce and Industry on 13 Jun 2016

That was the question we posed at a public debate organized by the Ruse Chamber of Commerce and Industry at the Sofia Science Festival 2016 which took place in Sofia, Bulgaria. From 12th to 15th May the capital of Bulgaria was transformed into a capital of the science world. Different stands at Zaimov park revealed the wonders of the world we all live in. Laws of physics made forks and spoons defy gravity, ancient skeleton mystery was revealed, space adventures were shown at a closer look, many of us stepped into Antarctic explorers’ shoes while others got to know the virus from inside, and we all had the chance to print in 3D our favourite cartoon character. And while some people could “touch” science outside in the park, many others attended the lectures inside the Sofia theatre, where scientists discussed hot topics on stage, little known facts were placed under the spotlight and citizens could learn the truth from its very source - the researchers and scientists. Discussions on gravitational waves, extraterrestrial life and gene editing naturally lead to the question of responsibility and ethics in research.

To be or not be...responsible” - that was the question, again asked on the stage. But this time not by actors and not during a play, but at a real debate with real participants - scientists, media representatives, entrepreneurs, educators, policy advisors. They all represented the five stakeholder groups defined by the RRI Tools project in order to offer the point of view of each side involved in the R&I process. We all turned face-to-face to discuss whose responsibility is the research and innovation process. Who is involved in, can responsibility be governed and if yes - how and by whom? What is the role of each of the stakeholder group within this process?

“It turned out that, in fact, after drawing the line, the question at its very basis is about people waking up and being conscious that they are part of the universe, they are part of something bigger within which they exist and the way they operate within is of great importance. It impacts the system and it is our responsibility to be aware of the consequences of our actions, we all play a part”, as Asen Nenov, an ecologist-biotechnologist-researcher-entrepreneur, shared with us.

“Scientists are very concentrated and interested in the result of their work but that is only one side of their job. The other side is that the scientist is obliged to report in front of the people about their work, their achievements. Scientists are responsible in front of the society” confirmed Dr Georgi Miloshev, PhD, researcher and Head of Molecular Genetics Laboratory. “And projects, such as this one, certainly has done a lot of work in order to bring science closer to the society” he continued.

Responsibility shall be governed by “dynamic strucutres”. How and when can be shared among the stakeholders in the forum of the RRI Toolkit, in fact your wonderful platform is the mean which can serve as agora where all stakeholders can meet and discuss what needs to be done. The form under which those structures will operate is to be decided among them and then this form can be institutionalised. But this has to be defined by the stakeholders, they can build the solution upon their need and not to receive a ready-to-apply form which might not fit” added Prof. Ani Proykova, physicist in the field of nanosized objects and member of  “Nanotechnologies, Advanced Materials, Advanced Manufacturing and Processing, and Biotechnology” programme committee

In the end we all agreed that a lot more is to be done and that the stakeholder groups and media representatives are those supporting and helping each of the decisions taken to be brought closer to society and not to separate “people from scientists”.

Petya Gancheva

Petya Gancheva works on the RRI Tools project at the Ruse Chamber of Commerce and Industry in Bulgaria, the RRI Tools Hub coordinator for Bulgaria and Romania.

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