Wednesday 01

Breaking walls, changing structures: an overview

Posted by Sergio Villanueva on 01 Feb 2017

Summary of the parallel session "Breaking walls, changing structures" coordinated by Sergio Villanueva and Ignasi López at the RRI Tools Final Conference

Structural change has become a central pivoting axis in the EU science policy priorities, and for this reason EC has directed its gaze towards new and innovative research governance structures. The RRI Tools Final Conference hosted a parallel session entitled “Breaking Walls, Changing Structures” devoted to structural change that gathered some of the most relevant actors and organizations involved in creating responsive and deliberative research governance settings in Europe. 

Lars Klüver, head of Danish Board of Technology, stated: “structural change can be understood as changing governing structures, but it includes other levels such as articulating research organizations vision and missions towards RRI values, embed RRI in executive structures, or training research stakeholders".

Following this insight, Melanie Peters, explained how the Rathenau Institut in the Netherlands, of which she is the director, had been promoting RRI that is now becoming embedded in the national science policy. The institute helped organize the Dutch National Research Agenda according to citizen needs by a massive consultation that has gathered more than 11,000 citizen questions, that now inform the national research agenda. 

As for training stakeholders, Claire Viney, from CRAC/ Vitae, explained how initiatives such as the UK Concordat to Support the Career Development of Researchers had fostered the incorporation of RRI values within research systems implicating the education institutions. The Concordat was an agreement between funders and employers of research staff to implement RRI mind-sets and to improve the employment and support for researchers and research careers in UK higher education, from undergraduate to postgraduate and senior levels.

Like CRAC/Vitae, other private companies in Europe are working deeply in facilitating the incorporation of RRI in policy and research organizations. Solange Chavel and Bernardo Rondelli, from SIRIS Academic, a consulting company specialized in structural change of research institutions, explained how they facilitated co-creation of long-term research priorities in the Italian region of Calabria generating an agreement framework among 3 Calabrian Universities (University of Calabria, University Mediterranea of Reggio Calabria, and University Magna Graecia of Catanzaro) and the Calabria Regional Government. Similar strategies were shown by Hillary Sutcliffe, from Society Inside, a Strategic Advisory Firm in UK that implemented a global RRI strategy in the University of Sheffield working with a broad range of stakeholders, from young researchers to senior level champions.

Finally, the session gathered researchers and coordinators of EU-funded projects that are already working in structural change innovation and implementation. Some on-going projects are currently developing Actions Plans to redefine the governance settings of some European research institutions that made them more permeable to RRI values. Fabio Feudo, from project STARBIOS2, showed how their work will generate 9 Action Plans in Bioscience research institutions over the world: 6 in European countries (Italy, United Kingdom, Poland, Slovenia, Bulgaria, and Germany), and 3 in non-European entities (USA, Brazil and South Africa). In the same line, JERRI, represented by Ralf Linder, will develop Action Plans to incorporate the RRI paradigm in 2 European RTOs (the German Fraunhofer Gesellschaft and the Netherlands Organization for Applied Scientific Research). Anne Snick showed FoTRRIS, an on-going project in which she is involved, that aims at generating a series of CO-RRI hubs that offer efficient and effective methods for researchers, citizens, businesses and policy-makers to solve ‘glocal’ challenges.

To sum up, the session “Breaking walls, changing structures” gave room for an in-depth discussion on relevant cross-cutting issues of science policy for EC: changing structures and governance for RRI. These discussions and debates are just in its initial stages and will get stronger in few years when the described projects have evaluated their outputs, and those recently awarded EC-funded projects tackle these topics. 

By Sergio Villanueva

Sergio Villanueva was part of the RRI team at "la Caixa" Foundation - now he is lecturer at the University of Barcelona


(+) You can find all ppt presentations of the session in here

(+) If you are interested on how to create structures for implementing RRI these issues you can find more informationon in this online guideline developed by the RRI Tools project


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