Centre for Cancer Biomarkers CCBIO
American interest in RRI

Visit to the Initiative for the Humanistic Study of Innovation at Indiana University

14-15 January 2016, Roger Strand (SVT and CCBIO) took part in two events organized by the Initiative for the Humanistic Study of Innovation at Indiana University in Bloomington, US.

Image of young woman scientist in goggles against futuristic looking media screen.

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Guest lecture and workshop

On the 14th of January, Strand presented his guest lecture "Responsible Research and Innovation as an Emerging Principle in European Research and Innovation Policy". The following day, a selected group of scholars and decision-makers at Indiana University were gathered for a workshop on "Responsibility and Innovation: a Conversation with Roger Strand".

Internal funding programme

The issues of responsibility and of "grand challenges" in particular are currently of great interest at Indiana University. IU celebrates its bicentennial in 2020. As part of a "Bicentennial Strategy Plan", the university is in the process of allocating 300 million USD of internal funding to thematic research initiatives focused on grand challenges.

Interest in the European RRI concept

With reference to the cross-cutting principle of RRI (Responsible Research and Innovation) in the European Horizon2020 programme, the lecture and workshop at Indiana University raised questions such as: How should one understand the emerging discourse of responsibility in research and innovation in Europe? Does it provide a new window of opportunity for criticizing the excessive technological optimism of scientific and political elites? Can it lead to real change in the sense of democratizing research and innovation? And what consequenses will RRI have for universities?

Take-home lesson for Europe, Norway, the SVT and the CCBIO

Roger Strand summarizes his Indiana University experience as follows: On one hand, it is fair to say that Europe was instrumental in developing and paving the way for concepts such as grand challenges and RRI. On the other hand, it is interesting both to watch the force with which a decision can be implemented with at an American university - can one imagine a Norwegian university setting aside 2,5 billion NOK for grand challenges? Furthermore, SVT, CCBIO and in general many of the European research environments that are strong on ethics and RRI, have both developed and committed to an "integrated" style of ethics and RRI, in which critical scholars closely collaborate with the science, technology and medical research environments that they also study. For us, this has been a desirable development. Still, it is a valuable corrective to interact and collaborate with humanistic scholars such as those at Indiana University who so far have maintained more of a critical distance to STEM research and innovation.