Governance: Identifying Social Needs and Working Towards Suitable and Sustainable Solutions

Working to build a more cohesive and responsible society, governance stands as a key pillar for Responsible Research & Innovation (RRI) that allows regions to go from public engagement to publicly engaged Research and Innovation (R&I).

But what is it exactly governance?

Governance of responsible research & innovation is any way of coordination aiming to foster RRI within an organisation or in the interaction with other stakeholders. More in detail, governance in RRI should be guided by the principles of transparency, inclusiveness, adaption and interaction.

“Governance means a lot for RRI because it’s all about governance. But more precisely, governance is all actions we take as individuals or organisations to foster and mainstream Responsible Research & Innovation in our organisations and for our stakeholders.”

Sara Heesterbeek – King Baudouin Foundation, Belgium

In the pursuit of integrating governance of RRI it is important to bear in mind that many positive practices are already a reality in many organisations without any specific focus on RRI. In these cases, the most useful action that governance can carry out is to make these practices visible, show they are efficient and work on optimising them as much as possible.

To achieve this objective, governance bodies have to be flexible, adaptable to local contexts and changes. They should have clear goals, feasible and accountable responsibilities for all actors involved, and expected impacts and follow-up. Moreover, structures and entities that foster RRI must decrease unexpected practices and consequences of R&I, as well as tensions, conflicts, mistrust and opposition that are more difficult to deal with downstream.

In the last decades, there has been a crucial change of approach towards how governance treated Research & Innovation from a one-way communication from experts on the matter to a more engaging perspective. RRI stands for taking into account several aspects (ethics, citizens’ opinion,s equality…) to ensure research and innovation drive to a sustainable future. Therefore, society must have something to say in order to effectively implement RRI.

“ It is about our values as a society. What kind of values we want to underpin Research and Innovation with?”

Richard Owen – University of Exter Business School, UK.

In the light of the above, it has been made clear that governance in RRI is based on collective actions for a more responsible impact of R&I, accountability and responsiveness is key to react to changes, public participation is a must, transparent and reflective procedures are needed to build trust and anticipation will be required to foresee future challenges and problems.

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