Horizon Blog

RRI into practice! Launching and using the Horizon RRI Prompts and Practice Cards

As part of the hoRRIzon project: Responsible Research and Innovation (RRI) for trusted products (hoRRIzon 1.0) we have developed a tool: the RRI Prompts and Practice Cards. The purpose of these cards is to support researchers and innovators to reflect on their research or application area, identify areas of potential strengths and risks, discuss priorities for RRI in their project, and plan activities accordingly and throughout the lifetime of a project.











What motivated the development of this tool?

We see RRI as a process that facilitates critical and contextual thinking about the broader implications of the research/innovative outputs. In a nutshell, it is thinking about the future and trying to anticipate to possible unintended consequences of those outputs, to plan and act in the present to minimise potential future risks.

The idea of creating the RRI Prompts and Practice cards originates from a real need to bridge the gap between RRI theory and practice, providing a practical tool specifically designed for RRI to prompt discussion and materialise ideas to help embed RRI into projects throughout their span.

Obviously, by using this deck of cards it does not mean researchers/innovators are “doing RRI”. We see the use of the RRI Prompts and Practice Cards as a mechanism to facilitate discussion about key elements of RRI within a project, often overlooked due to the tight time schedules of research. For instance, most researchers that participated in our recent study reported that time and timing were a frequent barrier to embedding RRI within their projects, especially with short projects (up to 12 months long, as is the case of the Horizon DER and TAS Hub Agile Projects). They welcomed any mechanisms and tools that would help to articulate RRI better within their projects.

What does it look like?

This first prototype (Version 2.1) contains 23 physical cards freely accessible to be downloaded. It is a “high level” RRI set of cards based on the elements of the AREA Framework (Anticipate, Reflect, Engage and Act) for RRI, expanded within the ICT sector- “AREA 4Ps” (Purpose, People, Product and Process). It contains four colour coded suits corresponding to each of the AREA elements, with titles, questions to consider about RRI, and example actions. Each of the AREA cards are also labelled (right bottom corner) with one of the 4Ps elements, to help prioritising project’s needs, according to whether they relate to: Purpose (e.g. Why should this research be undertaken?), People (e.g. Is anyone excluded?), Product (e.g. Could it be used to cause harm?; How do stakeholders shape the product?) and Process (e.g. Is the planned methodology acceptable?; How does your organisation support RRI?).

The deck also includes an extra suit of five “Can you agree” cards (black and white suit) to prompt discussion and prioritise actions (e.g. “Most important…and need to agree some new actions!”; “Most important …and we are doing it”).

How to use the cards?

The deck is very intuitive, lightweight and easy to use within a project, e.g. to support the design of an RRI Action plan at the start of a project, and/or at particular checkpoints throughout. The cards can be used in physical face-to-face sessions, but digital versions of the cards can also be used in online sessions, e.g. in the Miro shared whiteboard application.

There is no one recipe that fits all, so suits or individual cards can be used according to the priorities within a research project or innovation area. Below we describe one of the many activities we have run so far with these cards. It is based on a face-to-face session designed to work with small groups (4-5 people each; for 15 people maximum) and takes about 90 minutes, depending on the total number of people. It can be used with researchers/innovators working in the same or different projects, or as an RRI exercise using a Case Study as an exemplary project.

Example Activity:

  • Step 1: In small groups (4-5 people max) familiarise yourselves with the deck of cards.
  • Step 2: Identify a specific issue/question you would like to focus on during the session, either within a project or area of interest.
  • Step 3: Select the most relevant card within each suit (Anticipate, Reflect, Engage, Act)
  • Step 4: Why are those cards important? Discuss.
  • Step 5: Select the most relevant cards according to the 4Ps elements (Purpose, People Product and Process), given the issue identified on Step 2.
  • Step 6: Why are those cards important? Discuss.
  • Step 7: General discussion and wrap- up session (This includes a “What next?” set of questions to aid reflection on how best to incorporate the RRI elements/activities discussed in the session in to their projects).

Some activities we have run so far…

Since September 2022, we have been facilitating face-to-face sessions using these cards as part of a range of RRI related activities, supporting different projects, research teams, programmes and institutions within the digital technology, engineering and mental health sectors. Some of these include: the ‘Digital Youth’ (UKRI project) at the University of Nottingham, the TAS Hub, an ORBIT RRI Practitioner training session at Northumbria University, a TAS Pump Priming RRI workshop in London (also online using a digital version in the Miro app), and RRI training sessions to the 2022 cohort of Computer Science CDT students at the University of Nottingham.

 The ‘Digital Youth’ workshop took place in Nottingham with researchers and young people interested in digital mental health. We used a shorter version of the activity described above (focused on Steps: 1, 2, 5, 6 and 7), and asked participants first to familiarise with the cards (in groups of 4-5 people), and then to try answering the following question: “How can we get young people to think about the impact of mental health technologies? Attendees were prompted to think about the 4Ps for the AREA Plus Framework for RRI in ICT (“AREA 4Ps”):

  • Purpose: of engaging young people (why?).
  • People: involved in this research (who? people, schools), harms.
  • Product: Backgrounds? What don’t you know? Misuse?
  • Process: How? Engagement strategies, being informed. Reflection?

Attendees found these cards useful because provided an intuitive and tangible tool that was easy to use, as well as a rational framework for decision-making. Sometimes RRI is felt to be too abstract and difficult to grasp, therefore the cards were found beneficial as these provided opportunities for reflection and discussion.

The activity we ran as part of an ORBIT RRI Practitioner training session in Northumbria University, was aimed at early career researchers in engineering. Following the presentation of a case study, we introduced the deck of cards, asked participants to work in small groups (max 5 people) and to familiarise themselves with the cards. Then we asked participants to use the RRI Prompts and Practice cards to:

  • Identify the key RRI challenges in the case study
  • Prepare an RRI action plan (200 words max) as part of a “fictional” funding proposal, as if they were a Co-I or PI of a research project based on that study.

We suggested that they go through each of the AREA suits of cards (one at a time) to identify key RRI issues within that case study. Attendees engaged well with the activity and found the content of the cards clear and useful to elicit discussion. Two participants made valuable suggestions for improvement which will be taken into account for the next iteration of the cards. The cards were also very welcomed by the ORBIT team:

 “The ORBIT team are always looking for novel approaches for the elicitation of the impact of technologies on society.  We are especially keen to ensure that researchers do not feel that their work might be unduly constrained by insisting on concrete definitions of use cases and instrumental value.  During our Newcastle courses we had the opportunity to try out the card system, alongside our usual envisioning activities and found the process to be intuitive, the conversations stimulating and the final results both valuable in identifying impacts and opportunities for enhancing research processes.“  Martin de Heaver,  Director of ORBIT.

What’s next?

The hoRRIzon 2.0 and TAS RRI projects share a common interest in engaging with researchers in Horizon and the TAS Hub and associated networks, to support RRI embedded practice and participatory co-design. In particular, we would like to be able to support activities using the RRI Prompts and Practice cards to co-create with stakeholders (including researchers, innovators and the research support staff) a refined version of these cards, and to make them more accessible to all. Please contact Elvira Perez or Virginia Portillo if you would like to take part.

We will be also engaging with the public through local activities open to all (e.g. Festival of Science and Curiosity in Nottingham, 6-17 February 2023). We would like to open a discussion with citizens on how/whether lay people feel represented/included when researchers and innovators claim their research is socially desirable. Do citizens feel they have an input in this? Have diverse voices been included? How could RRI activities and tools such as the RRI Prompts and Practice Cards, help to facilitate more inclusion of citizens, as part of creating mechanisms for public dialogue to champion RRI, aiming towards responsible innovation of socially desirable products.

Written by Virginia Portillo and Elvira Perez

(hoRRIzon 2.0 and TAS RRI)


Tags: , , , , , , , ,