How to incorporate RRI in higher education institutions
In addition to instructing the next generation of policy makers, entrepreneurs, researchers and global thought leaders, higher education institutions have a prominent role in research and innovation (R&I). As such, they are vital actors in transforming society and dealing with today’s grand societal challenges. Higher education institutions can optimally fulfil their role as change agents by advancing the skills pertinent to conducting RRI and promoting the governance agendas key to RRI in such institutions. Thus, higher education institutions can help transform the R&I system such that societal responsiveness, sustainability and ethical acceptability become R&I’s new normal.
RRI Tools has gathered and developed practical resources that might help you in taking the necessary steps to embed RRI in your higher education institution. This transformation requires acting at different levels and involving not only the university community but also actors who are traditionally outside the campus.
Institutional commitment: Embedding RRI on campus
At the institutional level (provost, council, boards) a variety of measures can be taken to foster and support RRI, such as the development of:
A normative framework that includes RRI principles. For more information about these principles, take a look at the RRI Tools Policy Brief and the About RRI page. An example of one such framework is the EPSRC framework for responsible innovation.
A plan to foster dialogue, reflection, participation and public engagement in your institution. The Sciencewise Departmental Dialogue Index is a toolkit that can help you make a plan for your organisation.
A plan to support structural change regarding gender equality in decision-making bodies, university staff and labour conditions. For examples, check out EC elements and solutions for structural change in research institutions and the INTEGER, STAGES, and GenisLab guidelines for gender structural change.
An ethical code of conduct for research and teaching and an active promotion of awareness and use of this code through internal meetings and education. The Oxford University Code of Practice and Procedure and ORI’s The Lab are useful examples.
Policies to promote transparency and openness across the scientific process (e.g., TOP guidelines) and measures to promote open access to research findings. A great number of such measures can be found at the ROARMAP registry of mandates and policies adopted by universities, research institutions and funders (for more details check the How to Implement OA Policies at Institutions section in this Toolkit).
Courses that use RRI principles or that teach students what these principles are and how to make use of them. Examples are the MOOC Responsible Innovation: Ethics, Safety and Technology and, in the Netherlands, the course Responsible Innovation (Delft University) and the minor programme Responsible Innovation (universities of Leiden, Delft and Rotterdam).
Additionally, you could make use of indicators to gauge the impact of implementing RRI through such measures. Take a look at the report Indicators for Promoting and Monitoring RRI, which focuses on indicators for the six policy agendas of RRI as formulated by the European Commission. If you are concentrating more on RRI processes, the RRI Tools document Report on the Quality Criteria of Good Practice Standards in RRI would be an interesting read. An example of a tool to monitor or evaluate institutional change is the NCCPE EDGE tool for institutional reflection on public engagement. You can also give our Self-reflection Tool a try to further reflect on what your institution already does (or does not) in implementing RRI.
All voices count: Empowering the university community
In parallel, it is crucial that university staff at all levels (lecturers, researchers, technicians, managers, communication officers) become acquainted with RRI. This can be done in several ways. First, training courses, such as those devoted to identifying and avoiding scientific fraud and misconduct. An interesting online option is Training and Resources in Research Ethics Evaluation (TRREE). Second, participatory methods can be used to widen dialogue. You can find many useful methods in the Engage2020 Action Catalogue, a decision support tool that directs researchers, decision makers and others who want to conduct research inclusively to the appropriate participatory methods. Additionally, the Guide for Evaluating Public Engagement Activities will assist you in learning how to evaluate such participatory methods. And third, everyone can increase their understanding of the varieties of open access approaches. Many websites and tools are available to assist in this regard, such as the FOSTER open science training programme and the HowOpenIsIt? outreach materials. For more training resources, check the RRI Tools training web page.
Walk the talk: Fostering responsible research
Research teams, in particular, can (and should) be informed on the new RRI requisites incorporated in funding calls (such as those described in the Horizon 2020 FAQs on open access to publications and data) and on the benefits of adopting this new paradigm to obtain funding (e.g., Winning Horizon2020 with Open Science?). These calls stimulate, facilitate and promote the use of open access (e.g., Sherpa/Juliet database of funding agencies conditions), the incorporation of a variety of views and actors through initiatives like community-campus partnerships (e.g., CCPH Toolkit), science shops (e.g., Living Knowledge Science Shop Toolbox), or citizen science projects (e.g., Citizen Science Central Toolkit) and the building of collaborations between different stakeholder groups (e.g., NWO Responsible Research Programme). For more information on this topic, check the How to Design an RRI-oriented Project Proposal section in this Toolkit.
Training a new generation
Professors, lecturers, and teaching assistants can also be motivated to incorporate RRI principles in their syllabi. One way to do this is to integrate the ideas of anticipation, diversity, responsiveness, sustainability and other dimensions of RRI across and throughout course topics. For inspiration check the UNIAKTIV initiative of Dresden University and the KARIM recommendations for teaching responsibility in technology courses. Other ways to incorporate RRI principles are to introduce specific RRI policy agendas through the curricula (e.g., How to incorporate ethics in the geoscience curriculum) or to adopt general courses on RRI (examples given in the last bullet of the Institutional Commitment section above) and to ensure that these activities achieve RRI learning outcomes. Projects like HEIRRI (Higher Education Institutions and RRI) and EnRRIch (Enhancing Responsible Research and Innovation through Curricula in Higher Education) are currently developing teaching resources to incorporate RRI principles in higher education curricula, which will be progressively incorporated into the RRI Toolkit.