Responsible Research and Innovation (RRI) in turbulent times: how the British broader political context is shaping the RRI practices of the Engineering and Physical Science Research Council (EPSRC)
(University of Bristol)
Paper short abstract:
This paper focuses on the evolution of the EPSRC's engagement with Responsible Innovation (RI). The work shows that the changing political environment for research and higher education in the UK, including Brexit, are seen as significant factors that could influence the future of RI in the UK
Paper long abstract:
This paper focuses on the evolution of the EPSRC's engagement with Responsible Innovation (RI). Based on 20 interviews and document analysis, we describe how the EPSRC moved from an approach to research funding based on Public Engagement initiatives to the purposeful embedding of RI within some its directed programmes. Despite the formal commitment to RI, however, significant institutional and cultural barriers remain. Disciplinary norms, approaches to epistemology, institutional expectations, incentives and research evaluation criteria are hindering uptake and practice of RI. Without changes to these, proper resourcing and committed leadership, RI as an inter and transdisciplinary endeavour faces major challenges. Our findings suggest that the rising impact agenda in the UK presents an ongoing vehicle for continued engagement with RI. However, overall it was felt that while the UK academic and research council communities have played a major contributing role in the development of RI in concept and practice, it was acknowledged that it is a fragile discourse encountering significant institutional barriers and uncertain political times. The changing political environment for research and higher education in the UK, including Brexit and the forthcoming transition of the UK Research Councils transition into a new body (UK Research and Innovation) are seen as significant factors that could influence the future of RI in the UK. This is set in the context of an overwhelming political imperative for economic growth at a government policy level, for example within its Industrial Strategy.
When responsible innovation meets economic crisis: considering the possibilities of 'responsible stagnation'