March 25, 2015, by Warren Pearce

RRI at Nottingham: report from public lecture and workshop, January 2015

Photo by Eleanor Hadley Kershaw

Joint post with Sarah Hartley and Eleanor Hadley Kershaw.

On January 8th, Prof. Richard Owen delivered the MSP lecture “Responsible Research and Innovation (RRI): from nice words to meaningful action”, providing an engaging overview of the topic for over 60 attendees from across the University. Richard drew on classic literature from STS (for example, Collingridge’s dilemma of control) and his practical experience with the geoengineering SPICE project to open up questions around the roles of anticipation, deliberation and reflection in the development of disruptive technology. He noted that RRI creates its own tensions and dilemmas, and that perhaps education and creativity provide the most fruitful route to improving research outcomes in the future.

Check out the whole lecture with slides at Nottingham’s lecture capture.

Following the lecture, a RRI workshop convened and facilitated by Warren and Sarah took place (with financial support from Making Science Public (Leverhulme Trust) and Nottingham’s Science, Technology and Society Priority Group). The event brought together 18 participants from 11 schools and departments across the University who had expressed an interest in a University network on RRI, or been identified as working in the area. In addition, Professor Richard Owen joined the workshop and provided feedback on the discussions. The potential for an ongoing interdisciplinary conversation about RRI at the University was identified by the convenors during a research project conducted in summer 2014 to investigate how RRI is being interpreted within the University (Pearce et al., 2014). The workshop aimed to establish an RRI network across the University, share understandings of RRI from different perspectives and disciplines and explore what the RRI agenda means, how we might want to respond and what support might be needed. Following a brief round of introductions, participants worked in groups to discuss the following key questions.

  1. What does responsibility mean in your field? Are there differences across disciplines?
  2. Is RRI asking us to do anything else beyond what we do at the moment?
  3. RRI asks us to think about a role for stakeholders/users in shaping the research process. What are your thoughts on/experiences of this?
  4. Developing a distinct vision of RRI at the University (next steps): how do we want to respond to the RRI agenda and what support do we need?

Overall, participants recognised that RRI is gaining momentum in research policy at national and international levels, but will require a whole institutional response at the university level. There was a perceived need for a virtual space (such as the existing RRI hub) to share best practice and case studies, tips on Twitter and stakeholder engagement, etc., as well as coordination and communication to learn from existing RRI activities and avoid duplication. There was agreement that further funding should be sought to support the RRI network and build on the ideas that emerged from the workshop. Want more detail? Then download our full report from the workshop.

Posted in responsible innovation