Responsible Research and Innovation
Responsible Research and Innovation (RRI) is a term used by the European Union's Framework Programmes to describe scientific research and technological development processes that take into account effects and potential impacts on the environment and society. It gained visibility around the year 2010, arising from predecessors including "ELSA" (Ethical, Legal and Social Aspects) studies prompted by the Human Genome Project. Various slightly different definitions of RRI emerged, but all of them agree that societal challenges should be a primary focus of scientific research, and moreover they agree upon the methods by which that goal should be achieved. RRI involves holding research to high ethical standards, ensuring gender equality in the scientific community, investing policy-makers with the responsibility to avoid harmful effects of innovation, engaging the communities affected by innovation and ensuring that they have the knowledge necessary to understand the implications by furthering science education and Open Access. Organizations that adopted the RRI terminology include the Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council and the Netherlands Organization for Scientific Research, the latter of which incorporated the language of RRI into their pre-existing program for funding "Societally Responsible Innovating".
"Horizon 2020", the European Commission's program for science funding announced in 2013, made RRI a main focus. In 2014, it was suggested that the "broader impacts" criteria of the National Science Foundation were, despite certain dissimilarities, in effect coming to resemble RRI standards.
One area in which RRI principles are being applied is quantum computing. A research collaboration led by Oxford University within the UK National Quantum Technologies Programme aims to reveal how quantum computing can be socially and economically transformative, and to identify the potential downsides of the "disruption" it might bring about.
Among the criticisms voiced about RRI, prominent concerns include the vagueness of the terminology, the possibility of discouraging blue skies research and the lack of sufficient practical reward for embracing RRI in a research culture based on competition and short-term contracts.
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