A cross-cutting issue in Horizon 2020, Responsible Research and Innovation (RRI) is an approach that anticipates and assesses potential implications and societal expectations with regard to research and innovation (R&I).
RRI initiatives are designed towards a comprehensive participation of all stakeholders involved in the process of R&I starting from a very early stage, from design and implementation to evaluation. It relies on a joint effort of a multi-actor society wherein researchers, citizens, policy makers, business, and NGOs work side-to-side during the whole R&I process in order to align scientific outcomes with the ethical values, requirements, and expectations of society.
As a pivotal element of the R&I process, RRI is established and implemented as a system-wide approach. Fostering public engagement in R&I, enabling easier access to scientific results, implementing gender and ethics practices in the R&I content and process, promoting formal and informal science education are core principles of the RRI initiative.
Bringing science into democracy and democracy into science
Science and technology are the driving forces behind the most influential discoveries that have shaped the way we humans look at ourselves and at the world we live in. Alongside positive societal changes inherent to welfare and wellbeing, science and technology have sometimes introduced risks and posed ethical dilemmas. Often, societal impacts and ethical aspects have not adequately been addressed when developing innovation. Repercussions are seen on costs sustained by research institutions and business enterprises that could have otherwise focused on different projects and developed utilitarian products encountering more urgent citizens’ needs.
Over the last decades EU programs have maximised their efforts to bridge the distance between science and society, leading to RRI in the realm of the Horizon 2020 program. This initiative responds to a need to better exploit the potential of considering societal expectations in innovation as well coordinating efforts in order to fully exploit research funding potential. It aims to bring societal issues related to R&I into the open, anticipate and monitor their consequences, and promote inclusive, participatory approaches in European R&I processes. A core principle of RRI is the alignment of its outcomes with societal values, by engaging citizens in discussing how science and technology can contribute to create the kind of world we aspire for present and future generations. Only through the co-evolution of science and society, will we lead an effective transition to democratised science and research as a social activity.