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Taking moral responsibility seriously to foster Responsible Research and Innovation


Observers of change in the financing of European research have witnessed the introduction of a new notion within the research program H2020, that of responsible research and innovation (RRI). Moreover, this transversal research topic has also reconfigured the Science and Society research program. This new concept has surprised many researchers and potential applicants in general, and those involved in Sciences and Society programs in particular. Evidence of this is provided by the growing number of new requests addressed to researchers working on RRI from research call applicants during the drafting of European projects: there is a growing demand to know more about RRI from applicants. Furthermore, a number of researchers, institutions, museums and civil society organizations have expressed their disappointment with the appearance of the (highly normative) concept of responsibility in this area. However, many of these researchers are sociologists, political scientists, anthropologists or historians. Considering the underdevelopment of ethical sociology (or moral sociology) (Pharo 1985; 1990; 2000; 2004a; 2004b; Reber 2011), for example, the effects of such a reconfiguration can be understood. RRI has emerged suddenly as a new research requirement in the European Research Area, and the concept suffers from being ill-defined. This lack of clarity may make it more of an obstacle than an international comparative advantage for research and innovation if it is not clearly defined and contextually translated. Strictly speaking, RRI is not a concept, unlike moral responsibility, which has had this status for a long period of time. RRI is rather a general research and innovation policy perspective that promotes and continues to be a collection ofheterogeneous elements. This first part of the book focuses mainly on ethics. For this reason, we shallconcentrate on the problem of ethics in research, in the Ethics Review (ER), as a key (N° 5, as it will be presented; 2012, 2013)1 of the European Commission (EC)’s expression of Responsible Innovation and Research, taking the different understandings of responsibility in moral philosophy into account.Ethics and responsibility are not new in EU-funded projects. ERs have been in place for a long time, which has led to research communities taking ownership of them and integrating them into their work. Compared with ERs, RRI remainsmore enigmatic. One original feature of this chapter is the comparison it providesbetween RRI and ERs and other responsibilities central to research and innovation projects (parts 1 and 2). Although these two activities encompass convergences and specificities, the focus will mainly be on research. Nevertheless, we will not neglect the fact that both are connected in funded research. Indeed, it is common in presentation requirements for research projects to mention potential spin-offs for the economy, society and innovation. However, beyond ERs themselves, scientific work entails more central responsibilities. Researchers must comply with rules specific to their practices (epistemic norms related to their specific discipline, and common epistemic norms related to scientific work) and ethical norms(e.g. integrity). They are thus entrusted with responsibilities. What is first and foremost expected from them is scientific as well as moral responsibility in the conduct of their work. This implies achieving good quality research that respects both procedures and colleagues. We will then discuss the six different keys used by the EC to depict RRI and the relationships between them and moral and political responsibility (part 3). Indeed, the use of the six keys as a starting point, thus establishing a logical link with responsibility, is not immediately obvious. We will then propose a pluralist cartography of the 10 existing understandings of moral and political responsibility (part 4) and consider different ways to composethem, contributing to different lines of moral innovation (part 5). The conclusion will compare ethics in ER and RRI seeking cross-fertilization as a means to contribute to the development of European scientific policy.
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hal-03397967 , version 1 (22-10-2021)



Robert Gianni, John Pearson. Taking moral responsibility seriously to foster Responsible Research and Innovation. Bernard Reber; Bernard Reber; Robert Gianni; John Pearson. Responsible Research and Innovation, Routledge, 2019, 9781138209343. ⟨hal-03397967⟩
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