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University of Bath

Responsible Research and Innovation – The strategic challenge for universities

This paper discusses the Responsible Research and Innovation (RRI) agenda, posing five critical questions.

RRI has become a core point of reference for university researchers. This paper, authored by Professor Graham Room, poses five questions:

  • What responsibility does the researcher have for the transformations of society that follow from their research?
  • How far can researchers anticipate the range of these future transformations?
  • What does it entail, to engage with the wider public over these futures?
  • Is RRI a responsibility for the individual researcher or necessarily an interdisciplinary endeavour?
  • What are the strategic implications for universities in relation to the wider society?

It argues that RRI should typically involve a whole series of actors: (a) researchers ranging from basic science to applied science – including social science; (b) engagement with the companies and government bodies who apply their innovations in the wider world; (c) the dynamics of markets and other channels of diffusion of innovation; and (d) public and political actors taking stock of the changes under way.

No one scientist can assess their own responsibility therefore without situating it in within this larger chain – of our interrelated disciplines and of action beyond the university. This paper argues for an integrative notion of RRI, connecting up the university disciplines in a collaborative rather than a dispersive endeavour.