How to incorporate RRI in science engagement organisations
“The journey of a thousand miles begins with one step”
It is not a secret that the concept of Responsible Research and Innovation (RRI) might be new to science engagement organisations. However, many elements of RRI come quite naturally for these institutions; for example, collaboration with many different stakeholders. Science engagement organisations, as non-formal and informal education institutions, provide citizens with the necessary knowledge and skills to participate in research and innovation dialogue; they spark interest in science and technology, and promote science careers, critical thinking, creativity, science literacy and responsible citizenship. It is important to remember, however, that the line between science education and public engagement is quite blurry due to the mutual learning processes that take place during public engagement activities. This section provides a snapshot of the resources available in the RRI Toolkit that science engagement organisations can use to become more RRI-friendly. It is structured to fit the various activities and roles within organisations.
As a first step on the RRI journey, it would be useful to become familiar with the definition of RRI. Introductory videos are available on the Science Education and Public Engagement landing web pages.
The second step involves implementing RRI. Science engagement organisations can incorporate the RRI approach in their everyday activities, be it developing an exhibition, organising public science events, communicating about research or working with teachers and other community members. For educators (heads of learning/education departments), the DESIRE Toolkit can be very useful for planning and implementing dissemination activities within their projects. Outreach experts (communication departments) might want to check out the open access Journal of Science Communication to keep up on the latest trends in the field. For organisations engaged in citizen science, the project Citizens Create Knowledge (GEWISS) can provide a lot of inspiration for developing citizen science, while the User’s Guide for Evaluating Learning Outcomes from Citizen Science provides a tool to measure the impact of such activities. More resources specific to citizen science can be found here. For those involved in exhibition development, the PULSE research-based and action-oriented project serves as a good example of how to apply an innovative user-driven approach to creating an exhibition and accompanying activities. Finally, the TWIST Guidelines, targeting mostly science centres and museums, help users reflect on how to incorporate gender perspectives in exhibitions and activities.
The third step addresses evaluation frameworks for RRI activities. Evaluation of RRI activities at science engagement organisations remains one of the challenges for this novel approach. The RRI Self-reflection Tool might be a good way to introduce such evaluation –it is designed to help users reflect on how RRI-oriented their practice is. Evaluation: Practical Guidelines will also help users develop an evaluation framework for public engagement activities.
Because of their role as “intermediate agents” who promote dialogue between different stakeholders, science engagement organisations can position themselves as active shapers of RRI and can become local RRI hubs in their communities. In fact, science centres and museums already have economic effects in their communities, as was shown in a study on the economic impact of science centres on their local communities. In addition, directors of science engagement organisations can play a crucial role in building collaborations with other stakeholders. Individuals and organisations can search the RRI Community of Practice to discover potential cooperation partners or to connect with experts in specific fields. And the RRI Tools Hubs can provide helpful advice. Among the hubs of this network, there are seven science centres have been acting as RRI reference points in their countries since 2014.