Monday 01

How can we take advantage of civil society’s expertise for research and innovation?

Posted by Vetenskap & Allmänhet on 01 Jun 2015

For future innovations to be sustainable as well as socially accepted, civil society organisations have a crucial role to play. Many organisations are run by passionate visionaries, who have a vision of a better society and who possess great expertise in their fields. It might be expertise on what it is like to be a patient with a particular disease, about computer games or environmental issues. It is an expertise that can never be completely found in either industry, research or within authorities. Working together with users and other stakeholders is therefore an important part of RRI.

Sweden has an unusually strong civil society, where most citizens are members of one or more organisations. Many of the social institutions we now take for granted have also sprung from civil society initiatives, such as public libraries, preschools and care for the elderly. Civil society thus has a power to change society!

Each year, VA (Public & Science) conducts an opinon survey to find out what the Swedish public think about issues relating to science, such as their confidence in research and their opinions abut how research findings are reported in the media. In the latest barometer, we also asked how important people felt it was to involve the public in the research process and if they themselves were willing to participate. Half thought it was both important and wanted to participate themselves, and a third felt that it was important, although they did not want to take part personally. We were pleasantly surprised that the response to participate in RRI was so enormously positive, although we were already aware that, in general, Swedes are much more interested in science than other Europeans (Eurobarometer).

The conclusion is that, in Sweden, there is both a commitment and a civil society structure that can benefit RRI. So what are the barriers? Our civil society is extremely heterogeneous and large. Well-established organisations may already have links with research, while the vast majority are not at all used to having contact with scientists. Scientists must therefore take responsibility to seek out and involve these organisations. And there must also be support and structures in place to help scientists.

In June VA is co-organising a seminar to explore the possibilities for CSOs to participate in research and highlight available sources of funding. CSOs involved in research will also share how they have benefited and the type of support that is needed. We hope this will lead to much greater participation of CSOs in research processes!

For more information about this seminar which will be held in Visby on the 30th of June, please visit the event page (in Swedish only).

If you are interested in RRI in Sweden and VA, you can find this article about a workshop on RRI organised by VA with different stakeholders in December 2014.

Karin Larsdotter

Karin Larsdotter works on RRI Tools at Vetenskap & Allmänhet in Stockholm, the RRI Tools Hub coordinator for Sweden.

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