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What is responsible cancer research?

Responsible cancer research should combine biomedical research activities with critical analysis of the same research, says CCBIO's Roger Strand and Lars A. Akslen in a recently published "perspectives" piece in the Norwegian medical journal "Tidsskriftet for Den norske legeforening".

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doctor balancing on a wire which is a stetoscope, high up in the air.
Photo:
Illustration: Lightspring

Norwegian RRI framework

The framework for Responsible Research and Innovation (RRI) is a cross-cutting principle for the EU’s Horizon 2020 research programme. The Research Council of Norway has published the first version of a Norwegian RRI framework. The Research Council defines responsibility as meaning that «the processes in the research and innovation system shall increasingly be characterised as anticipatory, reflexive, inclusive and dynamic/flexible».

It might be tempting to dismiss such characteristics as empty buzzwords, Strand and Akslen explains in the article. They believe, however, that the RRI framework provides useful concepts for understanding how good decision-making processes can be established in future cancer treatment.

Critical reflection on the consequences of your own research

In this piece, Strand and Akslen present key ethical and social dilemmas on the interface between cancer research and policy. They introduce the theory on socio-technical imaginaries and discussed how it may be implemented in RRI frameworks. The piece presents and exemplifies the ELSA/RRI profile of CCBIO for a Norwegian medical audience.

RRI thinking links responsibility to the willingness and ability to imagine and reflect critically on possible social consequences of one’s own research results. Responsible cancer research in the RRI sense involves taking this optimistic bias seriously and teaching the researchers how to exercise self-criticism. In practical terms, this can be implemented in a number of ways. CCBIO has chosen to integrate analyses based on the humanities and social sciences into the general scientific activity.  Critical perspectives from science and technology studies, philosophy of science and ethics are introduced in CCBIO's research seminars, in addition to training younger researchers through dedicated PhD courses.

Critical discussion of how cancer research imagines the future can contribute to more responsible research and health policies, Strand and Akslen conclude.

Read the entire perspectives piece here in "Tidsskriftet" (in English or Norwegian).