“Citizens have a right – and are expected – to be involved in the crucial decisions of what their futures will look like and how science and technology can contribute to its betterment”
European Commission Expert Group
Under the auspices of the Irish Presidency of the Council of the EU, the Permanent Platform of AC held the second edition of the European Intersectoral Summit on Research and Innovation in February 2013. The Summit was organised with the participation of the Irish Ministry for Jobs, Enterprise and Innovation and the actors engaged in AC in Ireland (Trinity College Dublin, Irish Times).
The EISRI 2013 edition focused on the influence of communication and media on Responsible Research and Innovation (RRI) and was designed to create a unique opportunity for intersectoral and interdisciplinary discussions between leading stakeholders to:
- Continue the conversation initiated during the “Science in Dialogue” Conference held during the Danish presidency to develop a European model for Responsible Research and Innovation;
- Explore the role of media in the European model for Responsible Research and Innovation;
- Facilitate the formation of professional networks, knowledge sharing, and exchange of best practices;
- Come up with concrete recommendations on what has to be done in the short terms at a European level to reach the long term objectives of smart, inclusive and sustainable growth;
As outlined in the framework for Responsible, Research and Innovation (RRI), the grand societal challenges have a better chance of being tackled if all societal actors are fully engaged in the co-construction of innovative solutions, products and service. Thus RRI was developed in order to foster the creation of a Research and Innovation policy driven by the needs of society and engaging all societal actors via inclusive participatory approaches. The RRI approach is supported via six keys that were addressed during the conference: Engagement, Gender Equality, Science Education, Open Access, Ethics and Governance.
The conference brought together leaders and key representatives of research institutions, businesses, media, NGOs, policy makers and professional science communicators to discuss and reflect on the relationship between science and society. The dedicated workshops was designed to reflect the key issues in this area and to promote “out of the box” thinking and participatory processes.
The European Intersectoral Summit on Research and Innovation on The Role of the Media in Responsible Research and Innovation has been designed to bring together leaders and key representatives from academia, media, industry, policy-makers and civil society organisations, in order to foster “out of the box” thinking on some of the most pressing issues regarding the relationship between science and society and the role of the media.
The starting point of the debate is the recognition of the startling changes that the information eco-system and media environment in general has seen in the past years. It is clear that media and communication, broadly conceived, play a central role in shaping the opinion and attitude of society. It is therefore equally important that the key stakeholders – research institutions, industry, media and policy makers – make sure that they correctly address the question of authoritative communication of (and on) research and innovation to citizens.
The summit assessed these questions from the perspectives of the six “keys” outlined by the Horizon 2020 concept ofResponsible Research and Innovation (RRI).
When looking at the role of the media in RRI we clearly see two key trends that emerge and have to be assessed within the debates of all the keys:
- How is the changing information ecosystem changing the way that people access information about science and what is the role of traditional media or content providers in this new environment?
- How can new media tools support increased interaction between different disciplines and sectors of the European Research Area?
The EISRI Summit on The Role of the Media in Responsible Research and Innovation, as one of the official Irish Presidency conferences, was developed following the Danish Presidency conference “Science in Dialogue” that focussed on the participatory processes and frameworks enabling and enhancing the dialogue and interaction between academia and society and the 2012 ESOF Conference in Dublin.
The current economic and political challenges in Europe have underlined the importance of the development of a knowledge society for the future competitiveness of the Union. Further, the challenges posed by globalisation both in terms of economic competition and cooperation to overcome the grand challenges that society will have to face in the coming years have brought the importance of research and innovation to the forefront of European debates. In fact, the Europe 2020 Strategy puts innovation centre stage with an entire flagship initiative, the Innovation Union, dedicated to this. The Innovation Union Flagship initiative supports this strategy through specific commitments and defines research and innovation as key drivers of competitiveness, jobs, sustainable growth and social progress.
Further, the Lund Declaration (2009) states that European research must move beyond the thematic approach undertaken in previous framework programmes and focus on the so-called “Grand Challenges” of our time. The same point is stressed in the 2020 Vision for the European Research Area which states that “the European Research Area is firmly rooted in society and should be responsive to its needs and ambitions […]”.
This approach to research and innovation underlines the importance of engaging society as a whole in the research and innovation process in order to make full use of Europe’s intellectual capital to the benefit of citizens, entrepreneurs and scientists.
A strengthened dialogue and interaction between science and society is vital if science is to deliver on the solutions needed for addressing the major societal challenges. A mutual responsiveness between researchers, innovators and society at large must be an underlying mind-set and precondition Horizon 2020 as well as for other future European frameworks.
The European Commission has in fact developed the concept of science in society, set forth in 2007 with the main objective to foster public engagement and a sustained two-way dialogue between science and civil society, for Horizon 2020 into the broader concept of Responsible Research and Innovation (RRI). RRI recognises that the grand societal challenges that lay before us have a far better chance of being tackled if all societal actors are fully engaged in the co-construction of innovative solutions, products and services. RRI aims to foster the creation of a Research and Innovation policy driven by the needs of society and engaging all societal actors via inclusive participatory approaches.
RRI responds to the questions outlined above through six “keys”. The EISRI Summit looked at the role of the media in RRI through these six keys in the individual breakout sessions. These six keys are:
- Engagement of all societal actors – researchers, industry, policy-makers and civil society – and their joint participation in the research and innovation process;
- Gender Equality in research and innovation supporting a more balanced participation by both men and women in research and innovation;
- Science Education to enhance the current education process to better equip future researchers and other societal actors to fully participate and take responisbility in the research and innovation process;
- Open Access to increase transparency and accessibility to results of publicly funded research;
- Ethics to ensure societal relevance and acceptability of research and innovation outcomes; and
- Governance to develop harmonious models for RRI that integrate the other five keys.
The six keys underline some of the core problems that exist today in Europe that are developed more in detail
Whilst research and innovation have been clearly recognised as an imperative to develop a strong and competitive Europe, the strategic importance of research and innovation are not equally recognised by all countries of the union when it comes to concrete budgets allocated to these issues. Thus the obvious question why is this so? Why is it harder to defend high budgets for research and innovation that other areas? How does this relate to the general distance that seems to exist between science and the public at large?
According to the First Report of the European Research Area Board (ERAB) “it’s humbling to look at how small Europe actually is: today, 80% of researchers, 75% of research investment, and 69% patent applications happen outside the EU”.
As outlined in the Atomium Culture report on “European Research and Innovation – 2020: What can the leading institutions of civil society do for Europe?” some of the key problems relating to the underperformance of the European Research Area is caused by lack of communication, interaction and exchange of information. This lack of interaction can be seen between disciplines, between sectors and between countries.
Thus the media, broadly speaking, have a significant role to play in responsible research and innovation. On the one hand by keeping the public informed about leading scientific discoveries and engaging the public in authoritative and clear debates about scientific issues. On the other hand by using new media tools to increase the exhange of information and knowledge across disciplines, sectors and national borders.
This Summit in fact focused on the role of the media in responsible research and innovation. Thus the role of the media in bridging the gap that currently exists between researchers, industry, policy makers, civil society organisations and the public at large.
For the purpose of this summit media was used in the broadest terms meaning both traditional media as well as new media and social media. Given the central role of media in our daily lives and the changing media environment of the past decades it was timely to assess what are the hurdles that need to be overcome when communicating about research and innovation with the public. What is the role of media? Can new, interactive media better support communication with society about new technologies and innovation?
Media affect almost all aspects of contemporary life and they are inherent in defining key social and cultural processes thus affecting the fundamental choices of society. In a time when technology and innovation are being developed at an ever increasing speed and impinge upon society at large it is important to assess how to inform the public about the risks and benefits of new technologies and how to inform policy makers about societal evolutions and opinions.
It is important to distinguish between the two key debates that clearly develop:
- The role of content providers in shaping issues and engaging the public at large on issues of science, research and innovation;
- The role of media as a tool to change the way in which different actors of the research and innovation process communicate and interact.
The arrival of new media and social media relate to both of the above mentioned debates. New media has changed the editorial process of content providers from pre-publication to post-publication; what does this mean for traditional media and how does one ensure the validy and quality of information in this information ecosystem?
New media have further created a whole new environment for interaction and exchange of information on and through the world wide web; how does this relate to the research and innovation process? What are the challenges and opportunities?
New media are changing the relationship and behaviour of audiences. How can these new means of communication increase the trust with the public at large? How can new media be developed as a constructive and interactive channel between different stakeholders and the public?
Poor insight into the importance of good and transparent communication with the public has had disastrous effects for the acceptability and acceptance of certain new technologies and innovations.
It is clear that media and communication, broadly conceived, play a central role in shaping the opinion and attitude of society. It is therefore equally important that the key stakeholders – research institutions, industry, media and policy makers – make sure that they correctly address the question of authoritative communication of (and on) research and innovation to citizens.
The development of a coherent vision for better research communication in Europe will require choices – and these are not trivial. To set the priorities in a responsible manner, it is important to not only take into account the institutional and organizational diversity of the relevant stakeholders, but also to acknowledge the diverging needs of a wide variety of actors.
The outcomes of the EISRI Summit were developed in order to support the on-going discussions held at a European level on the 2014 Horizon 2020 Work Programme (notably the ‘Engagement’ part of the challenge ‘Inclusive, Innovative and Secure Societies’ in the Commission’s proposal (former SiS)) as well as reflect and support the Irish Presidency initiatives during the Competitiveness Councils and the role that research and innovation should have in the strategy towards a more competitive European economy and the strategy to support growth and jobs.
The outcomes of the Summit were divided into 3 core categories:
- Long-term Actions;
- Short-term Actions;
- Concrete Projects.
Long-term Actions refers to the development of a shared perspective on the direction that should be taken in order to respond to the challenges outlined by the summit. The expected time-line for these actions/recommendations should be within a 5-10 year period.
Short-term Actions refer to the setting up of actions to be developed within the next 5 years both at a national and European level.
Concrete Projects refer to those concrete actions that can be developed in the near future.