A brief reflection on the ‘RRIness’ of GRACE
Inspired by a presentation of Ralf Lindner at the GRACE Final Conference.
Responsible Research and Innovation (RRI) is a relatively recent concept responding to questions on the directions research and innovation should take in light of and considering societal challenges such as sustainability, security, well-being, etc. while anticipating possible risks. Overall the concept aims at aligning innovation with social demands and values.
RRI became one of the main underlying concepts and cross-cutting characteristics of the new Framework Programme for EU research funding, Horizon 2020, and was subsequently taken up by many national research funding programmes.
Suggestions how to perform and govern research and innovation responsibly include in particular the involvement of stakeholders and the encouragement of actors’ responsiveness.
The GRACE project set a particular emphasis on stakeholder engagement and transparency but did not explicitly invoke RRI as their underlying concept. Still, considering the characteristics of RRI GRACE implemented stakeholder engagement and transparency mechanisms which seem to be more in-line with RRI concept compared to other EU research projects in the domain of science.
This was reflected by an invitation of GRACE scientists to a ResAGorA workshop aiming at understanding what RRI could mean in the context of GMOs. It also resulted in the invitation of Ralf Lindner, Coordinator of the FP7 funded ResAGorA project to the GRACE Final Conference which took place on 9-10 Nov 2015 in Potsdam, Germany.
In this contribution, Ralf Lindner proposed a set of questions in order to reveal to what extent and in what way GRACE is in-line with the RRI concept – dubbed herein as ‘RRIness’. Some of these questions came up in versions in the course of the GRACE stakeholder consultations and the answers provided by the GRACE team were scattered over the various GRACE stakeholder consultation reports; others were new to the GRACE team.
With the friendly permission of Ralf Lindner the entire set of questions was taken to the GRACE team and answers were developed – similar as GRACE dealt with stakeholder comments. The picture emerging from these questions and answers – in the view of the GRACE team – is that the GRACE project was, in fact conducted in a more responsible way than scientific projects normally are.
Questions and Answers:
- How were the stakeholders defined?
- Who participated in the stakeholder engagement process, and who didn‘t? Why?
- What was the aim of increased transparency and data accessibility?
- To what extent was the project willing and ready to acknowledge and take into account other types of knowledge and expertise (e.g., non-scientific knowledge, lay perspectives)?
- What was done to enhance the capabilities of the project team to participate in stakeholder engagement and be more responsive to societal perspectives?
- How does the GRACE team assess the stakeholder process and the transparency efforts?
- How were the project‘s efforts to increase transparency assessed by the stakeholders?
- What effects did the engagement exercise have?
- Did the engagement processes, enhanced transparency and other project elements contribute to the „societal robustness“ of GRACE?
The database CADIMA (Central Access Database for Impact Assessment of Crop Genetic Improvement Technologies) contains quality assessed studies and conclusions on the health effects, socio-economic consequences and environmental impacts of GM plants as well as raw data of animal feeding studies and alternative in vitro approaches.