The BrisSynBio team is seeking to appoint a Post Doctoral Research Fellow for a full-time fixed term post for 2 years commencing as soon as possible.
The post is funded by BrisSynBio (a multi-disciplinary research centre that focuses on the biomolecular design and engineering aspects of synthetic biology) and will be located jointly with UWE Bristol's Faculty of Health & Social Sciences and BrisSynBio.
The post is within the Responsible Research and Innovation Theme of BrisSynBio. The Post Doctoral Research Fellow will be responsible for carrying out social science/ethics research pertaining to the use of gene-editing techniques in agricultural crop breeding working closely with Prof. Keith Edward’s team in BrisSynbio. and will be supervised by Prof. Julie Kent (UWE Bristol), Dr Darian Meacham (UWE Bristol / Maastricht University) and Prof. Keith Edwards (University Bristol).
Candidates should have some experience in social science discourses (ESLI/ELSA, RRI) surrounding gene-editing and/or agriculture, or social studies of science and technology, and a strong aptitude for inter-disciplinary research. Ability to work independently is essential.
RRI Tools Conference in the Senate of the Czech Parliament
Posted by Katerini Polák Dalasová on 09 Jan 2017
Devoted to the RRI Tools project, the Responsibility in Research and Innovations conference took place in the Czech Republic (in the Senate) on 20 October 2016. It was organised by the Plzeň-based Techmania Science Center in co-operation with Grafia s.r.o, a project partner.
One of the themes of the conference of the RRI Tools project was care and respect for nature and mankind, but also for other space bodies as a basic viewpoint in scientific, research and innovative work. Speakers from among leading Czech and foreign scientists, research and innovation companies, agencies and others discussed the issue of responsible research and innovation on specific cases.
For example, the information presented covered responsible stem cell and nanomaterial research or exploration of planets and other cosmic bodies. Professor Steve Miller of University College London presented RRI in terms of the need to see things in a larger context on the example of malaria-bearing mosquitoes. “If we were able to eradicate them, genetically modify them so that they would no longer be able to reproduce, what would that do to the entire ecosystem? What other, perhaps even much more dangerous species would take their place?” he asked in his speech. Therefore, according to him, anticipation and reflection as well as broader cooperation with other bodies is needed in the scientific community in order to provide the public with truthful information. In Great Britain, this is done by the Science Media Centre. That said, he believes that the dissemination of unscientific rumours and misinformation in the media can never be completely prevented.
As part of his presentation, doc. Dr. Ing. Vladimír Kebo of the Technology Agency of the Czech Republic responded to his words by stating that “the biggest barrier is the lack of creatively and logically thinking people”. This idea also resonated in other presentations. The debaters agreed that communicating science, research and innovation and their responsibility towards the world in the broadest sense is an issue whose roots extend all the way to schools, including nursery schools. In this field, science centres also play an important role as informal communicators of science and knowledge.
The conference was attended not only by representatives of the scientific community, but also by representatives of universities, business & industry, and last but not least, policy makers. The opening remarks to the conference were given by Prof. RNDr. Václav Hampl, DrSc., Chairman of the Committee on EU Affairs, Senate of the Parliament of the Czech Republic, and Ing. Lumír Aschenbrenner, a member of the Committee on EU Affairs, Senate of the Parliament of the Czech Republic.
Mgr. Michal Pacvoň, Ph.D (National Contact Point for the following thematic priorities of the Seventh Framework Programme: Socio-economic Sciences and Humanities, International Cooperation, and Science in Society) spoke about the future of RRI in the European context, and presented the planned Horizon SWAFS-2017 call focusing on measures relating to the promotion and development of responsible research and innovation (RRI).
(*) You can have a look the complete photo album of the event here
Katerini Polák Dalasová
Katerini Polák Dalasová is project manager at the Techmania Science Center, which is responsible for implementing and promoting the RRI Tools project in the Czech Republic
Ready to take off? Embark on a new journey in 2017 with the RRI Toolkit
Posted by The RRI Tools coordination team on 30 Dec 2016
After three intense and rewarding years, the RRI Tools project is coming to an end by 31 December 2016, leaving the Responsible Research and Innovation Toolkit as a legacy. This Toolkit, which contains nearly 500 tools, 28 guidelines, 50+ training resources, and a self-reflection tool, is meant to serve the community and further grow and develop.
Many thanks to the 250+ participants in the RRI Tools final conference, on 21-22 November in Brussels, who made this meeting a vibrant and insightful event. You will be pleased to hear that the presentations and videos of the conference will be shared with you very soon. Stay tuned, we will inform you on the RRI Tools blog and in our social media. Meanwhile, the much-praised RRI Tools practical guide to Responsible Research and Innovation circulated in your delegate bags is already available for download here.
Our warmest thanks to all of you, dear readers, supporters and contributors to the RRI Toolkit. Its success is also yours. We wish you a wonderful holiday season and a Happy New Year 2017!
The RRI Tools team
Photo credit: "Up into the balloon cavity 2" by Richard White (CC BY-NC-ND 2.0)
Posted by Ruse Chamber of Commerce and Industry on 21 Dec 2016
RRI Tools as a project is coming to an end, as all other good things do, but partnerships will endure beyond the project lifetime and the RRI Community in Bulgaria will continue to grow. And this is precisely what happened at the last training session organized by the Bulgarian-Romanian RRI hub on 19 December in Sofia, Bulgaria.
The name of the event was “RRI legacy in Bulgaria - pay it forward”. Leaving a legacy means you entrust a dear thing to the secure hands of its successor. That is why we chose to leave RRI as a legacy to the oldest higher education institution in Bulgaria - Sofia University, St Kliment Ohridski, educating the future scientists, engineers, policy makers - citizens.
Invited by the Faculty of mathematics and informatics to organize a training session on the RRI Toolkit, we have established a promising partnership in order to collaborate and cooperate in bringing science closer to the society in Bulgaria.
Together with professors, lecturers and assistants, we have dived deep into RRI waters to discover a wealth of RRI tools gathered on the platform www.rri-tools.eu.
We discussed RRI opportunities in Horizon 2020, we went through how to “incorporate RRI in higher education institutions” and how to “design an RRI-oriented project proposal” and had a look at the self-reflection tool. Information about enRRIch and HEIRRI projects, promoting integration of RRI in formal and informal education, was also presented.
The training helped us all reflect on the opportunities RRI could bring us now and in the future. It equipped us with knowledge and tools on how to apply RRI not only in our daily practice but also to pay it forward, as it is the only way we will keep the RRI community growing.
RRI in practice for schools: A handbook for teachers
Posted by European Schoolnet on 20 Dec 2016
The readers of this blog will agree on that the integration of Responsible Research and Innovation (RRI) principles in educative contexts is certainly beneficial for students, as it supports them - among others - in the development of critical, creative and open-minded thinking and furthers cooperative learning aptitudes. Moreover, it upholds transversal educational frameworks that can benefit collaborative planning in school activities and promotes the introduction of multidisciplinary learning exercises in the classroom.
In that manner, it is essential to construct principles that will support the implementation of RRI in academic teaching and learning activities, both at primary and secondary level. Particularly, it is recommended that educators consider applying continuous self-reflection processes, to determine how RRI-oriented their practices are.
Along these lines, European Schoolnet has developed an educational handbook entitled “RRI in practice for schools. Handbook for teachers” with the aim of helping educators to develop and implement RRI practices in the classroom as well as to include self-reflection processes in their everyday practices.
The handbook contains a variety of resources. For a start, it includes a set of short exercises to be used as a starting point to analyze how RRI-oriented educators’ practices are, specifically focused on the mapping of RRI obstacles and opportunities, the development of school project simulations and of exercises involving different stakeholders.
The documents’ main feature is a set of guidelines and practice templates to integrate RRI in everyday school activities and, specifically, to support educators in designing academic practices integrating RRI dimensions and principles. The guidelines provide with instructions to set up a dynamic process of creation of educational resources that should equally foster capacity building and cooperation among teachers and among any other relevant stakeholders in the educational community.
Additionally, the set of templates is designed for different subjects and is addressed to both primary and secondary school levels, depending on the activity. Particularly, it contains a (1) generic template/guide that describes the other templates’ rationale and which can be used for any type of practice and (2) three extra templates designed for specific activities, namely: (A) Getting started with RRI (B) Experiments and labs activities and (C) Reflection and dissemination.
Overall, we hope this resource helps teachers among Europe to become more RRI-oriented in their daily practices!
These three projects champion inclusive approaches to some of the biggest challenges we are facing as society today in health, in resource management and in the urban environment. Mistra Urban Futures also convinced the audience of the RRI Tools final event most and received the ‘Public Vote of the RRI Community’. According to the jury this project radiates an institutional commitment to co-creation of knowledge and co-design of participation methodologies. Their brand new, open access co-creation manual is very comprehensive and provides us with novel insights and important RRI lessons. To quote one: ‘Everyone is a knowledge holder, everyone is a knowledge producer, everyone is a knowledge user’, stressing our mutual interdependence.
EFARRI laureates: MISTRA Urban Futures
Inclusiveness is also key in the Italian IMRR project. This integrated water management project provides tools and capacity to allow Vietnamese institutions involved in water resource management to negotiate sustainable policies in a participatory bottom-up way. It is based on a transparent, intuitive web-based platform that provides iterative stakeholder input, sharing existing knowledge and giving relevant stakeholders the opportunity to have access and genuinely contribute with questions and indicators. This project fills a niche that is needed in informed decision-making that secures its political relevance.
EFARRI laureates: the IMRR project
miCROWDscopy is a citizen science project that identifies the major grand challenge to give people access to diagnostics and ultimately to prevent deaths. This is done in a very inclusive, innovative and creative way: people are involved in crowd diagnostics in a gaming format with low-cost technology. The underlying idea is to translate medical protocols into digital micro-tasks that can be packaged into video games and performed by the gaming community around the world. The result is that lay people are engaged in a non-professional, but very efficient, iterative process of data collection and analysis. They just play their game and can simultaneously save many lives.
EFARRI laureates: miCROWDscopy
Not only these three laureates, but many of the applications we received show a creative approach to tackling societal challenges by implementing RRI in their daily research practices. They set an example for RRI because they exemplify a strong commitment to moral concerns and a dedication to harness the potential of technology, allowing them to anticipate potential implications and accommodate legitimate expectations of stakeholders with regard to research and innovation in their projects.
A Science Centre as an open classroom to learn, play, discuss and reflect
Posted by Ecsite on 15 Dec 2016
“Life is either a daring adventure or nothing at all.”
― Helen Keller
We know for quite a long time that active, inquiry-based learning is designed to help teachers build their students’ learning skills in an open environment. If we combine this learning methodology with the PBL, or Problem-based learning, we get a tantalising combination that currently young students from Tartu, Estonia are enjoying when they spend a whole day at the AHHAA Science Centre, in the context of the AHA STUDY DAY.
Credit: AHHAA Science Centre
Building upon these trends, the Aha-Study format was developed to meet the needs of students and contribute to the implementation of 21st Century learning skills through national curricula in STEM education. Liina Vaher, Head of Education, shared with us: “Companies are no longer following the traditional working schemes, where you are hired to fulfil a position. More and more, new models are being tried, basically, models that use the potential of each person to its highest levels, in terms of imagination and working capacity. For that, teams are given a task and they have to come with a solution to the problem. That is totally a new way to imagine and perform work”.
Why not making learning a fun experience? The Aha-Study approach is highly agile, focusing on finding the best organisational structure to support cooperative planning, leadership and ownership of activities instead of process-oriented orders passed down through vertical management structures. The students are confronted to a balanced combination of options and freedom to choose, with the goal of finding solutions to unsolved tasks or challenges. Once they get into their lab coats, the journey begins with choosing the theme and getting the challenges to solve. In groups and assuming active and diverse roles, they plan and try to get the best working ways to fulfil their missions.
The central principle of the format sees the science centre building act as an interactive classroom for the whole study day. It connects several subjects related to one of the following themes: human anatomy, mind and senses, health and nutrition, electricity, astronomy, geology, home yard, water, forest or mathematics.
Liina adds: “We conceive arts as a fundamental topic and approach at the same time. After they get their theoretical session and they are done with their lab work and exhibition exploration, they assist to a science show, where they participate too. In this way, they also learn by moving themselves, not only with their minds but their bodies too.”
This is a fundamental step to get into the last part of the day: the reflection meeting. At this moment of the day, they openly talk about what they liked, what they didn’t, what could have been made in different ways, or maybe better, and a deep reflection about failure and emotions.
For Liina Vaher and her team, there is no better indicator of success that the future phone call from the teacher saying she or he wants to come again with the same group of students: “And then… we recognize among them a totally new way to relate with sciences, is like we had opened a new appetite in them, their attitude is more of a person that want to discover and learn about everything!”
Reconnecting the Balkans – the final SEE Hub event
Posted by Center for the Promotion of Science on 12 Dec 2016
While responsible science is an old notion that has been raised and achieved to a different extent during the past, both locally and globally, the RRI concept as proposed by the European Commission seemed to be a novelty among various stakeholder groups in the Balkans.
The RRI has been extensively travelling this region for the past three years, during the course of the RRI Tools project. Coordinating the activities in as much as five countries, Albania, Bosnia & Herzegovina, Croatia, Montenegro and Serbia, we had the opportunity during this period to meet representatives from many institutions, governing bodies and CSOs.
With a different level of experience with the EU programmes and funds, the RRI concept still seemed to be unfamiliar to many stakeholders. The RRI as such even had a negative connotation and was perceived as yet another set of rules, a mere reflection of the EU bureaucracy. However, while unfolding the idea of responsible research and innovation, especially in the past year when the training sessions embarked on all over the region, this perception has started to change. Different possibilities within different countries have certainly shaped the vision of the RRI implementation, however, even though many tools from the platform come from the EU countries, they seemed to offer guidance towards solutions to many regional and national challenges that Balkan scientists and other stakeholder groups have been experiencing in their work. More than 200 stakeholders were trained on the topic.
The SEE Hub conference
The final event of the SEE Hub, called “Responsible Research and Innovation for Better Societies”, scheduled for the December 16th, 2016, will gather the key stakeholders that we have met along the way. The five countries of the RRI Tools SEE Hub share many analogies: transitional economies and lack of resources in the field of R&D, the same or similar challenges on their way towards the sustainable growth. The final event will serve as a meeting point for all these actors. With similar economic and social “settings” and a fair amount of challenges to overcome, it seems more than reasonable to meet and learn from each other – where we’ve been, to what extent and how we managed to make success along this demanding path. The SEE final event has also an ambitious goal: to empower and inspire new networks and partnership in between the countries that have been disconnected on many levels, caused by political instabilities in the past couple of decades.
Authentic and intriguing practices from the SEE region will be presented. Speakers coming from the region, but also from the EU countries will offer a specific knowledge on the RRI: particular needs of the local communities, but also wider EU perspectives.
As a result of more than 20 advocacy meetings held around the region, the RRI concept seems to be recognized at the highest policy maker level: for the final event, we managed to gather representatives of Ministries of sciences from all five countries.
Among the best practices, one in particular seems to have excelled – marked at the very beginning of the RRI Tools project as an inspiring practice, the BioSense Institute from Novi Sad, Serbia has recently won the first Teaming H2020 project in the region – a generous grant of 14 million Euros that will help evolve this institute into the Centre of Excellence for advanced technologies in sustainable agriculture and food safety.
Apart from this, during the panel called “Towards the better understanding of science and responsibility” different RRI policy agendas will be discussed with experts coming from Albania, Croatia, Serbia and Bosnia & Herzegovina, each of them giving their unique perspective.
Last, but not the least, the final SEE event will gather key international speakers. Jean-Pierre Alix of EuroScience will give an overview of the concept development and its future perspectives. Alexander Gerber, Chair of Science Communication at Rhine-Waal University, Germany, will offer some insights into the idea of shared responsibilities in science and innovation communication. The audience will also have the opportunity to hear from Mikko Myllykoski, Experience Director at Science Center Heureka from Finland, about the science centres as the pillars of scientific culture.
The workshops were open to anybody who was interested in the topic, and mainly to the target groups, i.e. policy makers, the research community, the education community, business & industry and civil society organisations. The largest number of participants came from training and research institutions, while there were no representatives from the business sector and public administration. The total number of attendees was 47.
The response and feedback by the participants cannot be summarised into a unanimous evaluation as we reported both positive and negative reactions, but neither of them prevailed. Generally speaking, for most attendees the workshop was the very first experience with the responsible research and innovation concept.
We took a purely practical approach to the workshops and focused on real project outcomes, namely the search engine, how-to apply RRI and the self-reflection tool. During the first part, participants were acquainted with the RRI concept and its form as it is presented by the European Commission. They were given space to actively engage in the debate on different RRI aspects while using their experience and practice. In the second pat, we went through different parts of the agenda – ethics, gender equality, governance, open access, public engagement and science education. Discussions happened with a great contribution by the attendees and concerned mostly which aspects of responsibility are relevant to them in their everyday work and which aspects they consider problematic or hard to apply for different reasons. This brought us to opportunities and obstacles to RRI. The last part of the workshop introduced the RRI tools and practical work with them. The participants tried their hands at searching for different projects and instruments using a search engine and different filters and key words and tried working with search results. Another instrument that they tried was the self-reflection tool. They filled in the relevant section of questionnaires for a selected agenda and then discussed the results in groups and tried to identify key tools for the application of RRI in their parent companies. Last but not least, we also dealt with “how-to”; however, due to a lack of time, we only went through a selected procedure and used it to explain how we can further work with it.
As we have mentioned, the overall assessment was not too clear. Negative feedback was most often provided by researchers and scientific workers. Some of them see RRI as a useless activity that will reduce their capacity that they otherwise could dedicate to the actual research. On the other hand, many of them appreciated especially the search engine tool as a source of possible inspiration for implementing RRI into practice. There was a large agreement that the existing RRI concept is too general and has to be specified. At the strategic level, the European Commission should outline the future of RRI and how the Commission intends to further work with this concept. For instance, whether RRI will become an equivalent to horizontal priorities, whether institutions applying a responsible approach in research and development will gain some advantages when obtaining public funding, etc. The attendees also think that the parameters of a responsible research definition have to be specified, e.g. in the form of indicators (not just qualification indicators, i.e. those saying what is or is not responsible research, but also development indicators, i.e. those specifying fields where the RRI principles should be applied and what different development levels are). Last but not least, it would be suitable to further elaborate the RRI Tools and to make them more practical (more specific procedures, recommendations, examples of good practice, etc.), as the current search engine is a guidepost that leads to specific projects. Those interested then have to research and go through the project structure, search for information that they need in a complicated way, which, overall, reduces the usefulness of the search engine (according to some attendees, Google can do the same job, even better, when the key words are used). Another major risk that the participants mentioned was that referenced sources are often publicly funded projects where sustainability does not have to be observed over a longer period of time. This means that such sources may soon cease to exist.
Ars Electronica Center, Ars Electronica festival and above all the Futurelab are very good examples of artists and creators as stakeholders in RRI processes. This is something that has already been discussed in this blog. In its 37 years of life, the festival core mission has been to scrutinise the main issue of how society and technology influence each other and ever since, the Ars Electronica group keeps on developing new concepts and working in new processes to achieve this.
This forward-thinking attitude has resulted in the creation of a festival where children and teenagers can work together. Every year a topic is defined and in 2016 youngsters were invited to “Save the World”. Children and teenagers were asked to playfully work on transforming what has become a place that is hostile to life into a thoroughly liveable habitat. By playing and doing instead of considering too big of a task and consequently being paralysed, kids of all ages approach to research and innovation with no fear. It is an open door for them to become informed and responsible citizens. Being responsible also means being entitled to find new solutions for all of our societal challenges. The more enjoyable we go about changing the world to make it better, the more diverse and more sustainable, the more meaningful, more inspiring and more rewarding it will be.
But this is not all, Ars Electronica has also set up a prize, the U19 prize were children and youngsters up to the age of 19 have the opportunity to imagine solutions for the world of tomorrow and to produce and present their concepts of and ideas for it. As part of this prize and taking stock of their long lasting experience on the value of including artists and multidisciplinary teams in the RRI processes, Ars Electronica has set up the U19 agency. This agency acts as a facilitator for the children to understand the importance of being able to communicate their research and engage others, to learn the need to work collaboratively and the value of mutual learning. For the first time, winners of the u19 prize co-created together with the team the exhibition that showcased all the winners’ artefacts and inventions. They were also in charge of some of the visitors’ tours, being able to grasp why and how visitors are attracted to their work and together with them to devise improvements.
All in all, U19 is a great way of embedding RRI in the way children understand research, facilitating new ways of doing it and making children as responsible and capable of innovating as any other stakeholder.
The RRI Tools final conference took place on November 21st and 22nd 2016 in Brussels. An agora designed to friendly share and analyse how research and innovation can be further built upon more open and responsible foundations, this event gathered over 250 participants. Nearly 80 speakers shared their views with the public on the future of openness of research and innovation and the social impact of science. On Monday 21st, the sessions reviewed the main goals and outcomes of the RRI Tools project, taking stock of what we have achieved so far. On Tuesday 22nd, the sessions aimed at opening the perspectives on Responsible Research and Innovation in the other parts of the world, and in the future, beyond the 2020 horizon. You can browse here through the full programme of the conference.
The conference also hosted, in the evening of Monday 21st, the Ceremony of the European Foundations Award for Responsible Research and Innovation, a sister initiative that aimed to recognise the best 3 RRI projects in Europe and to publish 15 good RRI cases throughout Europe. The winners are: Mistra Urban Futures (Sweden), on co-creation of knowledge for sustainable urban development, the IMRR project (Italy), on sustainable water management of the Vietnamese Red-Thai Binh river, and MiCROWDscopy (Spain) on video games and big data for collective tele-diagnosis of malaria and tuberculosis. Find out more on the fifteen EFARRI nominees and the final winners and view the pictures of the EFARRI Award Ceremony.
And if you missed the conference, please stay tuned. The presentations and videos of the conference are to be shared with you all very soon! We will keep you informed on this blog and in our social media.
PERFORM meeting – World Science Day for Peace and Development 2016
Posted by UNESCO on 28 Nov 2016
The world is facing a global crisis in science education, as seen by diminishing number of youngsters interested in studying science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM). A considerable percentage of young people in the world are not interested in STEM careers mainly because they perceive science as boring and difficult, and they feel they lack the necessary skills to deal with such topics. Such negative perceptions discourage adolescents from actively seeking to learn about science, explore career options in STEM fields, and undervalue the role of science in society.
PERFORM is a European Commission- funded project aiming to investigate the effects of the use of innovative science education methods, based on performing arts, in fostering young peoples’ motivations and engagement with STEM in selected secondary schools in France, Spain and the United Kingdom.
PERFORM project looks to move beyond merely increasing scientific and technological knowledge to developing a reflective knowing of science in which young people can consider its purposes, values, and how it becomes reality. Learning science involves restructuring of perception and through this young people might come into new relationships with the subject, and perhaps themselves, in establishing their identity with the subject. To these ends scientific researchers, performers and young people are working together in schools for developing performance- based activities. It is hoped that the collaboration will increase young people engagement with science, its values and the processes of research.
UNESCO’s role in PERFORM is to promote the sustainability of the project and embed policy linkages between PERFORM and EU science education policy and decision-makers, from the early stages of the project, in order to ensure fluid communication between PERFORM members, policymakers and science education practitioners. In addition, UNESCO is also in charge of ensuring the long-term impact and relevance of the PERFORM findings, methodologies and outcomes across Europe and to return the research results to the European society.
In this framework, UNESCO as one of PERFORM partners, organized at its Headquarters a meeting to present and promote the PERFORM project to the UNESCO’s Permanent Delegations and the general public on the occasion of the World Science Day.
Established by UNESCO in 2001, the World Science Day for Peace and Development (WSDPD) is celebrated worldwide on 10 November each year. The day offers an opportunity to mobilize various partners to highlight the important role of science in society and to engage the wider public in debates on emerging scientific issues and the relevance of science in their daily lives.
On the occasion of World Science Day for Peace and Development 2016, PERFORM meeting gathered at UNESCO Headquarters about 80 secondary school children and 53 UNESCO permanent delegations including France, Spain and USA. A general presentation of this EU H2020 funded project on enhancing young people's motivations for science through performing arts has been made to the audience followed by three different performance shows based on stand-up comedy, clown and busking science.
The public reception of the conference and the performances was highly positive and some delegates and representatives from different countries approached the organizers in order to obtain further information and stay in contact with the Project’s managers.
“This (PERFORM) is a fantastic project; it should be widely spread not only in Europe but also in developing and emerging countries” (Delegates from Egypt and Gambia)
“This is a simple and effective way to engage youngsters into STEM” (Delegate from Luxembourg)
“It was really entertaining; the approach is interesting” (Delegate from Ireland)
Overall, PERFORM is perceived as a stimulating and innovative project to engage young students with STEM careers, developing their interest in science and raising up their will for questioning themselves about scientific topics, through an entertaining and attractive methodology.
Posted by Networked Quantum Information Technologies (NQIT) on 24 Nov 2016
UK government's quantum technologies strategy is aimed at making use of the astounding properties of quantum mechanics to develop a new generation of products which promise to transform our lives profoundly. The strategy actively promotes responsible research and innovation to ensure that these new products are socially desirable and embraced by the public.
Now one of the hubs set up as part of this strategy, Networked Quantum Information Technologies (NQIT) based at the University of Oxford, has produced a short animation explaining some of the RRI issues in quantum technologies, one of a series produced by each of the hubs.
NQIT is focussed on quantum computing – using quantum properties to do information processing in ways which are not possible with binary digital (“classical”) computers. These properties, at the subatomic scale, are counter-intuitive and seem to go against our ordinary experience: phenomena such as superposition – quantum states “added together” where electrons, photons, neutrinos, and even whole molecules behave more like waves than like particles; entanglement – groups of particles whose quantum properties cannot be separated, so that a measurement on one will be correlated with others even over a great distance. Whereas ordinary computers are based around binary digits, or “bits”, which take the value 0 or the value 1, quantum computers are based around quantum bits, or “qubits”, which can be in a superposition of 0 AND 1 at the same time.
These extraordinary properties will form the building blocks of quantum computers. However, quantum effects are hard to work with, and it is a major challenge to turn theory into practice. Quantum computers are still in their infancy, and, so far, quantum operations have only been done with small numbers of qubits, but the physics and engineering is developing rapidly. And alongside this, there is a great deal of theoretical research into quantum algorithms which will be able to find the answers to problems that would take a conventional computer an unrealistic time to solve – in some cases, it would take them longer than the lifetime of the universe.
NQIT quantum computers will use photonics and trapped ions / Credit: NQIT / Stuart Bebb
What are the RRI issues with quantum computing?
The most well-known ability of quantum computers will be to find the factors (numbers which are multiplied together) of large numbers. This is simple with small numbers – 3×5 = 15 – but rapidly becomes intractable for very large numbers using classical methods. It has been shown that a sufficiently powerful quantum computer could do this easily.
This would be a major risk for information security, since almost all Internet encryption is based around the mathematical idea that multiplying large numbers is easy, while factorising is hard.
However, in parallel with research into these quantum algorithms, researchers are also developing new forms of encryption which are believed to be resistant to being broken in this way – an example of good practices which, while not labelled as RRI, carry out the tenets of RRI in a practical way.
The risk of breaking Internet encryption is only one example of the ethical and social issues raised by quantum computing. Others include:
Trust and verification: because many of the calculations made possible by quantum computing cannot be replicated with classical computers, how can we be sure that the results are correct? How can we even be sure that the processes are using quantum effects, since these are so subtle and hard to replicate?
Big Data, Machine Learning and Artificial Intelligence: Quantum computing could be the key to powerful new ways to search huge amounts of data or to build neural networks – similar to the way our brains work - and so issues with quantum computing overlap with on-on-going debates about the ethics of big data analysis and the risks to humanity from computers whose intelligence exceeds that of humans.
Ownership and access to quantum technologies: Only large, state-level or very large corporations and research laboratories are likely to have the resources to operate quantum computers, at least for the foreseeable future. This may cement or increase imbalances of power between these powerful actors and ordinary consumers and citizens.
Thinking ahead to the world of quantum computing
These are potential ethical and social issues for the future, once quantum computers become a reality. But RRI teaches us that we should think about these concerns now, while this is still “basic” science, anticipating the issues so as to be prepared however the future pans out. NQIT is engaging with industry, policy-makers, strategic thinkers, and quantum experts, as well as working within the project to encourage project leaders and researchers at all levels to think about what it means to be responsible in research and innovation.
Stakeholder events provide an opportunity for dialogue around the issues that may arise from quantum computing / credit: Kirsty Allen
In the immediate term, uncertainty about when powerful quantum computing will be achieved, and what it will eventually be able to do, is itself an ethical concern, because it opens a contested space in which real concerns may be overwhelmed by competing narratives. These narratives include notions of “spooky” and “impossible to understand” quantum science: some might ask, if even the physicists cannot understand what is going on, how can we be sure that quantum technology will not have some unforeseen consequences?
There could be narratives suggesting that we should be wary of quantum technology “meddling with the fundamental fabric of Nature”, echoing public concerns about nano-technology and GM organisms. Misunderstandings of quantum science might lead to exaggerated or even completely false ideas about what quantum computing might lead to. Our aim in RRI is not to educate or reassure the public, but to provide a balanced viewpoint which takes real concerns seriously but does not allow alarmist and ill-informed ideas to take root.
Following the momentous decision by the UK to leave the EU on 23 June 2016, there has been much turmoil and confusion about the future of UK access to and engagement with EU funding and projects. According to one report: “UK universities have in the region of 100,000 collaborative links involving UK-based researchers working with their European counterparts.” It goes on to say that sixty percent of all internationally co-authored research papers produced by the country's scientists include at least one European co-author, and EU money enables UK universities to work together across a continent, to lead multinational collaborations, and to share in European resources, data and expertise.
Professor Richard Owen, Executive Dean of the Business School at the University of Exeter, warned the workshop that the Brexit vote showed how little many UK citizens felt that they were receiving the benefits that were supposed to be coming from the research and innovation systems. RRI was even more important post-Brexit, particularly its value of inclusiveness to bring in the views of other groups.
Dr Melanie Smallman Deputy Director of the UCL Responsible Research and Innovation Hub, described her research which found that citizens and scientists understand how science works and its place in our world differently. Subtle differences between the public and expert understandings are often misunderstood as public opposition and therefore ignored in policy, disenfranchising people further. More importantly, the benefits of technologies are not shared equally and she argued that we need to find ways to take more account of the shape of economy that we are building with science and innovation.
Following these two keynote presentations the participants undertook group work concerning the origin and implications of Brexit for RRI and vice versa. The event ended with an open space technology session and plenary discussion.
During the breakout sessions and open space discussions, a number of key themes emerged:
Brexit has highlighted social divides in the UK; academia has to ask what its influence and role should be.
Brexit demonstrates the importance of social and ethical issues in today’s neoliberal societies. This highlights that there is now a higher demand for RRI than ever.
RRI has an important political component and RRI researchers need to consider their political role.
Brexit will raise issues around funding of RRI research, as the EU is the biggest funder in the area. The interdisciplinary nature of much RRI research also makes it more difficult to gain funding from RCUK and other sources.
The EU’s specific policy agendas linked to RRI (open access, gender equality, science education, ...) form an important part of RRI. However, Brexit will allow for a broader and more academic discourse of the term in the UK.
The impact of RRI beyond the research community is currently limited. The concept is still open and discussed and can take different meanings for different groups.
There is a significant community of people interested in RRI. At present this community is not well defined and very much project based.
This research assistantship would be paid as a stipend suitable for a PhD student currently studying for a PhD in an area related to Responsible Research and Innovation (RRI). The PhD student must be willing to transfer their PhD to DMU or be a current DMU student.
A 1st class honours degree and/or Masters in a related area are required.
Experience in note-taking, transcription, facilitation of workshops is desirable but not necessary – on the job training will be given.
Gathering RRI & RRI learning practices: the HEIRRI database is now online!
Posted by HEIRRI on 03 Nov 2016
The new database of the HEIRRI project is now published online and available for everyone interested in RRI and RRI learning! The database compiles 23 exemplary cases related to RRI and RRI learning in higher education institutions, such as EU projects, different teaching/pedagogical approaches, programmes, courses, a policy document and a report.
The selection of the cases for this database was made based on the evidence collected on the HEIRRI State of the Art Review, which engaged a variety of actors involved in RRI from a teaching and learning context, and a scanning of RRI-related EU projects, policy documents, academic papers, and more. Presentations and activities at the 1st HEIRRI Conference, hosted in Barcelona on March 18th 2016, were considered as part of the review as well.
The database is already available on Open Access in the project’s blog www.heirri.eu and it will be soon integrated into the current RRI Tools web platform, together with other inspiring practices and initiatives related to RRI.
We encourage you to discover these 23 exemplary cases related to RRI being taught, learnt and integrated into Higher Education Institutions!
You can download the document here. Among others, some of the initiatives chosen for the database are the FOSTER project (Facilitate Open Science Training for European Research), the EnRRICH project (Enhancing Responsible Research and Innovation through Curricula in Higher Education), the synthesis lectures ‘Engineers, Technology and Society’ (University of Western Australia), the subject “Ethics in Life Sciences” (Vrije Universiteit Amsterdam) or the Canadian Community-University Research Alliances (CURA). Explore the database to find out the rest!
Knowledge for Climate: Fighting climate change using the latest scientific insights, together
Posted by the Athena Institute on 27 Oct 2016
To help bring RRI to life, the RRI Tools project has identified eight showcases, which are good examples of RRI in practice. We will introduce you to each of these, explaining what it is and why they are good representatives of RRI. At the end of the article, find a testimonial on how you could use the showcase training resource to have a better understanding of RRI, get trained and train others.
Over the last century, due to raising temperatures world-wide, global mean sea level rose by 0.19 meter, a faster rate than the two millennia before (IPCC, 2014). And as sea levels are prospected to rise even further, this poses a real threat to countries positioned at or below sea level (IPCC, 2014).
Figure 1: Delta works Oosterscheldedam
One such country is the Netherlands and, with a population of nearly 17 million, is also one of the most densely populated countries in the world. In this light, it might not be surprising that in the Netherlands a very inspiring large-scale research program can be found dealing with climate change: Knowledge for Climate.
Climate adaptation through a collaborative business, research and policy effort
Through active cooperation between the Dutch government, the business community and scientific research institutes, the Knowledge for Climate programme (2007–2014) developed applied knowledge that could transform the vulnerability of the Netherlands to rising sea levels into an opportunity for the development of new, internationally applicable, delta technologies as well as attracting businesses. The programme aimed to ensure that long-term decision-making considers the impacts of climate change and to develop successful and feasible adaptation strategies. It focused on a limited number of vulnerable areas, or ‘hotspots', and regional knowledge programmes using an integrated multi-stakeholder participative approach.
Figure 2: Schematic representation of an unbreakable embankment
Since the major flood in 1953, during which 1836 people lost their lives, the Dutch flood defence system has highly improved and the ‘Delta Works' have gained international recognition. Now, with sea levels rising yearly, many dykes do not meet the current protection norms and are assessed ‘inadequate'. Not only would the economic damage be immense were these dykes to break, in all likelihood many Dutch people would not survive the resulting flood. The Knowledge for Climate programme sets out to assess whether the placement of ‘unbreakable embankments' are more effective in reducing flood risks than conventional dykes, and what the extra costs and remaining risks would be. Instead of heightening them, the dykes are widened to make them more robust and resilient. As a result the water can overflow the dyke, but not break through the dyke, decreasing the amount of water reaching populated areas.
And while calculating the risks and costs, the project consortium, consisting of eight research institutes, worked together with local authorities and water management and control specialists to develop safety plans and think of other ways to use the ‘unbreakable embankments'. It seemed that unbreakable embankments would take up a lot more space than conventional embankments, making them a bit more expensive but also more useful in the long run. Spatial planners see many pro's in using these dykes to build parks and houses on. The multifunctional dykes are a smart solution for increasing safety when there is lack of space, while contributing to other social needs.
Climate proof cities
Another set of projects within the knowledge for climate programme focused on urban areas. As in many countries, Dutch cities are expanding rapidly, increasing the need to react to the impacts of climate change on urban areas and to make cities climate proof. Densely built areas heat up faster than other areas, leading to heat waves that affect labour productivity and the health of, especially, sensitive populations. Due to the increased risk of extreme rainfall, sewer overload occurs more often, leading to costly infrastructural problems. The complexity of urban planning often makes it difficult to implement climate adaption measures.
During four years, a consortium of ten research centres and universities worked together with local authorities and specialists such as spatial planners, engineers and sewerage experts, to develop research-based action plans for combatting heat waves and city floods. For example, the consortium found out that the level of heating differs between neighbourhoods and even streets, depending on building density, paving, colours of buildings, and the presence or absence of water and plants. One remarkable finding was that water in the city not always serves to cool its surroundings; stagnant water retains heat, thereby increasing night temperature. As many differences exist between neighbourhoods and streets, let alone between cities, urban climate adaptation strategies should be tailored to local circumstances. Due to the engagement of many locally active stakeholders, a number of strategies developed during the program has immediately been put into action. As such, these strategies were adapted while implementing them. In a growing number of Dutch cities, including Rotterdam, Amsterdam, and Groningen, local governments provide subsidies to support citizens who aspire to transform their roofs into ‘green roofs'. More plants, flowers, grass and trees in the city will lower the heating, and green roofs have the extra benefit of being small water buffers.
Knowledge for climate: an inspiring case
All in all, Knowledge for Climate excellently shows that if cooperation across academic, governmental and entrepreneurial layers is well shaped, action-driven research can really make a difference. It shows that in one and the same project, both academics can reach their disciplinary aims of furthering knowledge and publishing research articles, policy makers can reach their aims of improving environmental and living conditions and businesses can simultaneously help fulfil societal needs and make a profit. Knowledge for Climate, in other words, really proves Responsible Research and Innovation to be the multi-edged sword it ventures to be.
How to use the Blueprint for Knowledge for Climate showcase in training?
Blueprint for Knowledge for Climate showcase is an inspirational case that describes key points of collaboration between science, industry and government on the basis of Dutch Knowledge for Climate research programme with the aim to provide insight in how to put RRI into practice. In a variety of respects it can be of value to different types of stakeholders.:
The showcase shows the possibility to work on an existing practice and reframing it in RRI terms and can be of value and use to different types of stakeholders. To motivate the participants to prepare and work with the showcase it is helpful to reduce the detailed content of the showcase and - next to a short introduction - focus on aspects you might like to highlight.
To filter out the process requirements the "World Café” can be a method to simulate the Knowledge for Climate by playing a role in the programme Knowledge for Climate. A detailed role description of the various stakeholder groups enable the participants to discuss from a different point of view of another stakeholder group and reflect and identify how learning points are applicable to their own practice.
It’s important to note that (desired) learning outcomes should be discussed, either at the beginning of the workshop or even before the session with participants.
Some questions to evaluate the workshop: What brought you to the workshop? What stroke you in the workshop? What do you plan to do with the content after the workshop?
Come to a Responsible Research and Innovation training!
Posted by RRI Tools on 24 Oct 2016
Our training aims to help you make sense of RRI, to bring the concept to life and help you understand how it can be useful in your own work. Organised in a modular format, it ranges from a half-day to several day-long workshops.
Multi-stakeholder involvement in nanotechnologies - an innovative approach
Posted by NANO2ALL on 17 Oct 2016
Multi-stakeholder involvement in research and innovation
The European Commission actively promotes the concept of Responsible Research and Innovation (RRI) and the process of aligning research and innovation (R&I) with societal values, needs and expectations. Practices that enable such an alignment are of high relevance in all scientific and technological domains, not least emerging technologies, including the field of nanotechnologies.
Nowadays nanomaterials are widely used in all kinds of products already available on the market, from self-cleaning windows, to drug delivery devices, tennis rackets, cosmetics and food stuffs, and many others. The list is indeed long. Nanotechnologies are also considered a great promise for numerous other fields, sectors and applications.
There is, however, a lack of knowledge on the potential future impacts of the use of nanomaterials that have raised wide ethical, social, health and environmental concerns worldwide. The understanding of the possible consequences arising from current and emerging applications of nanomaterials is indispensable to guide nano R&I in the direction that is socially beneficial and acceptable.
Multi-stakeholder involvement in R&I is one of the ways to allow diverse audiences, including researchers, government representatives, industry members, media, consumer- and environmental organisations, as well as other civil society representatives to work together to better align both the research and innovation processes and their outcomes with the values, needs and expectations of the society.
The NANO2ALL project lies on these principles and establishes a European-wide sustainable platform for mutual learning and informed dialogue among all stakeholders to improve transparency and societal engagement in responsible nanotechnology.
Image owned by JRC
NANO2ALL will use a new approach - the 'Scenario Exploration System' (SES) -, a future simulation tool developed by JRC. SES is a serious scenario-building game that will be adapted in this project and will present future nanotechnology scenario situations across multiple timelines. As part of this game, parties will take the role of other stakeholders to move them outside of their comfort zones and better understand other views in the research and policy process. It will produce important data about the concerns or interests of different publics on the use and exploitation of nanotechnology research. The ultimate objective of this multi-stakeholder dialogue tool is to develop an RRI nanotechnology innovation agenda to be used by policymakers at national and EU level that departs from societal needs, values and purposes and actively takes on board societal expectations, needs and concerns.
10 PhD students in skills and competencies necessary to apply responsible research and innovation (RRI) in the area of plant breeding and production
PlantHUB is a new European Industrial Doctoral Programme (EID) starting in December 2016. Successful applicants will carry out their PhD will be recruited for at least 50% of their time at one of the non-academic partners. PhD candidates will develop the fundamental research carried out at the academic partner into a marketable application or service together with the involved companies. The outcomes are new molecular tools for plant breeding, new forage, cereal and oil crop varieties, non-invasive imaging and phenotyping technologies, intelligent lighting systems for plant growth, new software and services for complex genomic analyses, and plant product quality.