Horizon Blog

Half-way through hoRRIzon: Responsible Research and Innovation for trusted products

We have had a busy half year engaging with a wide range of stakeholders including research participants, project partners and Advisory Group members. The activities of the project have begun to demonstrate the complexity and importance of RRI which will prove invaluable in setting the groundwork for future work around Responsible Innovation both for Horizon Digital Economy Research and beyond.

Through a series of one to one interviews, Work Package (WP)1 has been mapping digital technology researchers’ understanding of responsible research and innovation (RRI), their attitudes, tensions, paradoxes, how they have applied RRI in their current projects – the strengths and barriers and opportunities for improvements. The aim of this scoping work is to identify key RRI factors and strengths/gaps in existing RRI practice, to inform the design of a survey aimed at the wider digital research community, to feed into WP2, 3 and 5 and to co-create guidelines for RRI implementation aligned to Horizon’s challenges. WP1 has completed semi-structured interviews with 14 participants, including researchers from different levels of seniority (internal and external to Horizon) and research support staff. Data analysis is ongoing and preliminary data indicates that many participants approach responsible research through research integrity and research ethics, and although these components are at the core of RRI, they are not synonymous with it. All participants believed conducting responsible research is important. The value and need to promote more anticipatory and reflective practice in research was shared among many of the interviewees.

As stakeholder engagement and co-creation are key to guide responsible research, design, and innovation, the WP1 team established an Advisory Group (AG) with nine national and international experts in the field. So far, there have been two meetings resulting in productive discussions. The first meeting in July 2021 focused on facilitators and barriers of RRI and possible gaps in current approaches to RRI. The second meeting, held in October, addressed ‘Critically Assessing RRI for Trustworthy ICT systems’. The next AG meeting will take place in January 2022

WP2 explores example case studies of RRI implementation and has been working with the members of two projects – one from Horizon and one from the Trustworthy Autonomous Systems hub (TAS Hub) – to explore how RRI can be facilitated in practice and how RRI implementation may be supported. Following WP1 interviews with members of both projects and a review of their proposals and plans for the implementation of RRI, WP2 applied two interventions – to get a better understanding of those projects’ RRI practices. The ORBIT tools (organisation self-assessment and RRI maturity assessment) asks its users to rate their project RRI maturity across a range of components of RRI. The Moral -IT Cards stimulates discussion of RRI topics. These activities will be used to help inform the co-creation of a refined RRI action plan for both projects. WP2 recently completed the interventions in one of the exemplary projects and plans to do so for the second one, preparing the way for the next stage of co-creating the RRI action plan.

WP3 has been tasked with integrating the work of the wider project and beyond, to bring together a proposed approach towards RRI for Horizon.  The team has begun to compile an overview of the emergent findings to build on the work of the other WPs. This incorporates reflections and perspectives on RRI from the WP1 interviews, a more in-depth engagement with RRI in relation to the WP2 example projects, and the development of the Cardographer platform in WP4. The next phase of the project is to continue to integrate these findings to identify strengths, weaknesses and gaps in existing approaches, and how these may be addressed by the adaptation of existing tools – for example card-based tools – and where new elements may be required to ensure that the proposed Horizon approach to RRI addresses the needs identified by the project as a whole.

WP4 involves the application of card-based tools and novel longitudinal Creativity Support Systems to engage stakeholders with RRI practices and objectives. It has implemented the Cardographer platform as a method to enable remote and co-located card-based tool activities, and as a hub for analysis of the rich data captured from the design and analysis activities that result from using cards with stakeholders. To date the team has successfully implemented an online platform that enables researchers to create decks of ideation cards that can then be deployed with stakeholders through several online platforms. These have been integrated to allow for data capture, stored on the Cardographer platform database. The Platform now incorporates data visualisation capabilities for preliminary data exploration and supports data export in formats suitable for third-party analytical tools. Furthermore, a bespoke virtual tabletop environment is being implemented to enable smoother and richer experiences and for more detailed data capture. A mobile app version is also being designed, to support the return to face-to-face ideation activities.

WP5 focuses of the potential policy impact of RRI, with particular interest in the potential for impact from WP2’s work with the two example projects, as well as the wider Horizon research portfolio. As such, it links, but is also dependent on insights from WPs 1, 2, and 3. WP5 is currently preparing for policy impact awareness and planning workshops to be held with stakeholders. The focus point for these workshops will be a card-based tool, developed in the ongoing “Policy Cards” project. Design outcomes of the workshops will be fed into the Cardographer platform and as such inform parts of its development, while also gaining insights through its analysis and visualisation capabilities.

Moving into the second half of the project these activities will continue to generate vital insights into the practice and facilitation of RRI within digital economy research and beyond. In addition to a greater understanding of RRI, these insights will be combined to lay the foundations for a proposed improved approach to Responsible Innovation for Horizon.

Written by the hoRRIzon team


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