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A New Bet for Scientists? Implementing the Responsible Research and Innovation (RRI) approach in the practices of research institutions

Alba L’Astorina, Monica Di Fiore


In last years, the European Commission has promoted an approach that seeks to anticipate and assess potential implications and societal expectations with regard to research and innovation, with the aim to foster the “design of inclusive and sustainable research and innovation”. The approach, called Responsible Research and Innovation (RRI), has become a crosscutting theme of Horizon 2020, the most important European research funding system. RRI has its roots in a longstanding debate on the sense of techno-scientific innovation and its power to produce both benefits and harm, producing risks, arising ethical dilemmas and controversial questions. It proposes a framework for governing the innovation process asking all actors to become mutually responsible and responsive in order to reach “socially desirable” and “acceptable” innovation goals. Years after its emergence as a policy concept, studies and reports have evaluated the efforts to mainstream RRI in the national policies, revealing that questions still remain open to discussion. In this paper we will give a brief overview of RRI approach, what it is, why and how it emerged and developed within the policy discourse in the European context. We will then review some key lessons concerning opportunities and challenges embedded in this approach, focusing on the role of science.


Responsible Research and Innovation; Horizon2020; Science and Society; Governance; Innovation; Responsibility

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DOI: https://doi.org/10.7358/rela-2017-002-last

Relations. Beyond Anthropocentrism
Registered by Tribunale di Milano (04/05/2012 n. 211)
Online ISSN 2280-9643 - Print ISSN 2283-3196

Executive Editor: Francesco Allegri
Associate Editor: Matteo Andreozzi 
Review Editors: Sofia Bonicalzi - Eleonora Adorni
Editorial Board:
Ralph R. Acampora - Carol J. Adams - Vilma Baricalla - Luisella Battaglia - Rod Bennison - Matthew R. Calarco - Piergiorgio Donatelli - William Grove-Fanning - Serenella Iovino - Luigi Lombardi Vallauri - Christoph Lumer - Joel MacClellan - Dario Martinelli - Roberto Marchesini - Alma Massaro - Barbara Muraca - Serpil Oppermann - Simone Pollo - Paola Sobbrio - Kim Stallwood - Sabrina Tonutti - Jessica Ullrich - Federico Zuolo