Failing to take the social and ethical values in research and innovation into consideration systematically; may increase distrust in science and its advances.’
Researchers from Wageningen University & Research, Institute for Advanced Studies, Austria, have concluded that while the European Union (EU) promotes social and ethical values in research and innovation, such values are not well integrated into research policy or practice.
Publishing their work in the journal Science, the research team, along with 18 partners said in a press statement ‘..New disruptive technologies like synthetic biology, nanotechnology, genetic engineering, automation, robotics and artificial intelligence are accompanied with persistent and growing societal concerns about their social and ethical impacts. Failing to take the social and ethical values in research and innovation into consideration systematically; may increase distrust in science and its advances.’
The researchers point out that on a political level, the EU has said that there is need for more ethical responsibility and better social embedding of research and innovation. To this end the European Commission has invested in six thematic domains of responsibility to better align research and societal values under the header of ‘responsible research and innovation’ (RRI).
However examining what impact RRI has had, the researchers said ‘Findings suggest that the integration of responsibility in research and innovation practices has fallen short of stated EU political ambitions…they wane in funding call requirements and are largely absent in evaluation criteria used in proposal assessment.’
To address the discrepancies the researchers assert that there is a need for clear application of responsibility in research and innovation policy efforts manifested in funding calls, defining research goals, methods and outputs, as well as evaluation criteria used for assessing research proposals requiring funding. However, the steps would require ‘Reflection on and balancing of various and often conflicting policy goals, such as economic value creation, scientific advancement, enabling open access to published research findings and responsibility in research and innovation.’
Addressing the issue of growing societal concern, the research team said ‘By integrating responsibility in research and innovation, the EU must affirm its role as a leader of ethically acceptable and societally robust and desirable research and innovation on a world stage. Otherwise Europe undercuts its ability to fund and promote research that tackles societal challenges compatible with its values.’