Monitoring the Evolution and Benefits of Responsible Research and Innovation; outline of the MoRRI final event in Brussels

22/03/2018

On March 6th and 7th 2018, the MoRRI Consortium presented the project results to experts and stakeholders in a final event hosted at the Fondation Universitaire in Brussels.

The project has developed a monitoring system to show the evolution and benefits of RRI across EU member states.

The MoRRI project has focused on the EC conception of RRI (namely an operational package consisting of six dimensions: gender equality, science literacy and science education, open access, public engagement, ethics and governance). In and across these dimensions MoRRI has identified a number of monitoring indicators. This has been achieved through workshops, multiple surveys, and a series of case studies alongside desk-based research and other methods. The MoRRI project's outputs are a significant source of evidence on the benefits of all aspects of RRI for society, the economy and science itself. It demonstrates that RRI does not hinder science and innovation, but actually fosters scientific excellence. In addition to providing evidence of the situation in Europe to date (presenting RRI developments and patterns at country level and identifying country clusters), the event helped cross-fertilise thinking on the indicators being developed for FP9 (e.g. in terms of baselines, targets, challenges, pitfalls, links to wider MS-level monitoring), and the benefits that can be expected from RRI-related approaches (e.g. such as citizen science and user-led innovation).

During the final event, a group of experts discussed in a structured form on:
(1) The findings of the study, their relevance and robustness (including the accuracy of the data and analysis presented);
(2) The associated conclusions arising from the work;
(3) New developments or issues arising and their policy implications;
(4) Potential recommendations to the Commission for their future actions in this area, in particular on the nature of support and the key areas that should be targeted.

The public event on March, 7th offered the opportunity to discuss and validate in a joint exercise the public access version of the final draft of the study report (available here).

Find below the selected project findings:
1. Results of the MoRRI researcher survey

In the context of MoRRI, a large-scale survey among European researchers was launched in order to learn more about the benefits associated with RRI and its dimensions Public Engagement, Science Literacy, Gender Equality, Open Access and Ethics. In the survey researchers were asked about their views on the relevance, benefits, barriers and hindrances of RRI within their daily research activities. Based on the survey data we were able to investigate whether (1) institutional frameworks support the implementation of RRI activities within research organizations; (2) the normative orientation of research, e.g. curiosity vs. challenge-driven, influences the scope and extent of RRI activities; (3) the perception of RRI is shaped by the openness of researchers towards actors beyond the research community; (4) the national framework conditions influence the intensity of RRI activities, (5) less-established researchers like female and junior scientists are more open-minded towards RRI than established ones, and finally whether (6) the scientific discipline shapes the acceptance of RRI.

Beside these questions, the research team had the opportunity to investigate whether the EU funding framework exerts an influence on the perception and practice of RRI. For this purpose, the survey not only covered EU-funded researchers but also a control group of researchers that had not received EU funding before.

2. Methods
Two surveys were sent out: The first went to EU-funded researchers in November 2017 where in total, 2,755 participants in total took part in the survey (completion rate: 12.4%). The second survey went to a control group consisting of researchers who had not received any financial support from the EU over the last five years (Framework Programme (FP7 or H2020), ERC Grants, EUREKA, COST or other EU research programs). In total, 723 participants completed this survey (completion rate: 4.1%). To ensure that the participants didn’t receive any EU money, a filter question was positioned at the beginning of the control group survey.

3. Results

1. EU-funded researchers are more familiar with the concept of RRI than researchers from the control group. We assume this is because RRI was developed and implemented first by the EU and is not yet – at least not as an acronym – fully known within national research and innovation systems.

2. European research and innovation funding seems to attract researchers who describe their kind of research more frequently as challenge-oriented research than as purely curiosity-driven. Challenge-oriented researchers, however, seem to be more inclined to conduct RRI activities and perceive different kinds of benefits when doing so than the group of mainly curiosity-oriented researchers.

3. The institutional environment can positively influence the degree of RRI activities.

4. Challenge-oriented researchers are typically more RRI-aware than curiosity-driven researchers

a. Statistically we can observe the strongest effect of the research orientation on public
engagement activities, e.g. the involvement of citizens during the research process.

b. Source of research funding (basic funding, third-party funding, and contract research)
does not make a significant difference regarding RRI activities.

5. There are differences among scientific disciplines: In medicine, but also in most cases for the
social sciences and the humanities, RRI issues are more important than for the structural
sciences.

6. The longer the period spent working in research, the more the respondents are inclined to
conduct a respective RRI activity.

7. Policy measures aiming at strengthening the spread of RRI should be aware that that a strong
overload of tasks and lack of knowledge about RRI can hinder the implementation of RRI in
projects.

Conclusion
Overall, there is not widespread knowledge of RRI among researchers. However, the respondents from both survey groups, i.e. the EU-funded researchers as well as the control group, are quite optimistic that RRI related scientific, economic, social and / or democratic benefits will occur in the future. Among the most important already observed scientific benefits are the emergence of new research topics and enhanced visibility in the research community. Regarding the economic benefits, the faster diffusion of knowledge is particularly highlighted (for details see D9.1, the report on the researchers survey). The most important supportive factors to practice RRI are personal motivation and the institutional strategy. Therefore, an intensified communication of RRI as a concept and particularly the communication of good practice examples should be strengthened. Indeed, the RRI keys are currently not implemented as key performance indicators. If e.g., public engagement or science education activities would be also recognized by the respective key performance indicators (and not only the number of publications and citations etc.), this could support also younger, not yet fully established researchers, to address RRI issues without endangering their scientific careers.

Partners

  • UNESCO. United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization
  • The Catalan Association of Public Universities (ACUP)

Sponsored by

  • Generalitat de Catalunya
  • Ajuntament de Barcelona