- HOW TO INCORPORATE RRI IN POLICY/FUNDING INSTITUTIONS
- HOW TO INCORPORATE RRI IN HIGHER EDUCATION INSTITUTIONS
- HOW TO SET UP A PARTICIPATORY RESEARCH AGENDA
- HOW TO INCORPORATE THE RRI PRINCIPLES IN A FUNDING CALL
- HOW TO DESIGN A RRI-ORIENTED PROJECT PROPOSAL
- HOW TO CO-CREATE COMMUNITY-BASED PARTICIPATORY RESEARCH
- HOW TO EMBED RRI IN CITIZEN SCIENCE
How to design a RRI-oriented project proposal
The Responsible Research and Innovation (RRI) approach is increasingly present in funding calls, both explicitly and implicitly, to foster the ethical acceptability, sustainability, and social desirability of research and innovation outcomes. As a concept pushed by the European Commission, RRI is a growing presence within the EU’s Horizon 2020 Framework Programme as well as in some national schemes (e.g., NWO Responsible Innovation Programme in the Netherlands, Research Council of Norway, National Research Councils in the UK). More European examples can be found in How to Incorporate RRI Principles in Funding Calls.
RRI is not only a European trend but a worldwide one. Similar approaches are being taken under different labels, such as the US NSF Broader Impacts and the Australian Research Council’s Responsible Conduct, or under the values expressed in the Daejeon Declaration on Science, Technology, and Innovation Policies for the Global and Digital Age. The ProGReSS project’s RRI Funder Requirements Matrix and the Swedish report Assessing the Broader Impacts of Research deepen the analysis on this topic.
Although the holistic concept of RRI is still far from being mandatory in most research and innovation (R&I) calls, some of its policy agendas already constitute normative requests in many calls (as is the case for gender equality and ethics and research integrity). Other policy agendas are being gradually incorporated (e.g., open access and public engagement), and some remain present in a more diffuse way (such as science education, open science and governance, which are somehow related to the impact section in many cases). In addition, applicants are increasingly being asked to think about other dimensions of their proposals, such as the interdisciplinary character or the diversity of voices considered.
Thus, even though designing a project proposal implies meeting eligibility requirements, evaluation criteria and prescriptions of the funding body, incorporating RRI principles to some extent may help researchers improve their R&I processes, anticipate the potential impact of their work and gain a competitive advantage to secure funds.
General prescriptions of the funding call
At the general level, prescriptions normally include a consortium agreement, a management plan, a data management plan, an intellectual property agreement, an impact assessment, a communication plan, and so on. The SAGE Handbook of Research Management covers many of these aspects. Other resources are described below:
Data management: DMPonline is a tool created by the UK's Digital Curation Centre to assist teams in producing data management plans (DMPs), from proposal preparation through project completion.
Communication and outreach: Social media are becoming central elements of any communication strategy. They can also constitute a way to improve how researchers work, especially in bridging disciplinary boundaries and engaging in knowledge exchange with industry and policy makers. Social Media: A Guide for Researchers provides insights on these different elements as well as on the various tools available.
Policy making: Reaching the ear of policy makers may require specific skills, such as crafting a policy brief, and an appropriate communication and dissemination strategy. The guide Communicating Research for Evidence-Based Policy Making has been designed to address these issues.
Impact: the UK’s Economic and Social Research Council has developed an Impact Toolkit that covers diverse issues, from knowledge exchange to media relations and public affairs, and provides guidance on how to develop strategies for maximising the impact of a research project.
Specific policy agenda requirements
Funding bodies may set specific requirements that relate to constitutive elements of RRI (such as RRI’s policy agendas):
Ethical and research integrity: Specific standards are usually defined by national and/or local legislation and institutional governance settings. The requirements commonly address two domains: research on humans and animals, on the one hand, and informed consent, data protection and confidentiality, on the other. Ethics for Researchers presents the ethics review procedure of the EC, defines ethical issues, and gives practical advice to researchers. The report Research, Risk-Benefit Analyses and Ethical Issues provides guidance on complying with ethical standards in EU projects. The project Contemporary Science, Values and Animal Subjects in Research, sponsored by the US Office of Research Integrity (ORI), provides useful information on the historical background and the issues at stake regarding the use of animals in research. The report Ethical and Regulatory Challenges to Science and Research Policy at the Global Level addresses the need for a global ethical framework for research. More information can be found in the How to Put Ethics into Practice section in this Toolkit.
Gender Equality: The gender dimension is often cited in the context of biomedical research and innovation. Indeed, as the US National Institutes of Health (NIH) report Consideration of Sex as a Biological Variable in NIH‐funded Research shows, the quality and generalizability of biomedical research depends on considerations of key biological variables such as sex, especially in pre-clinical research; however, these variables are not systematically given the appropriate consideration. But gender has also been shown to critically affect behaviours, such as consumption habits and adoption or rejection. Hence, gender is a research variable relevant for most, if not all, fields. The section How to Reflect on and Integrate the Gender Dimension in R&I Content is dedicated to this topic, and more resources can be found as well in the section How to Embed Gender Equality in Research Proposals. In addition, researchers have to consider gender equality and diversity and inclusion criteria when building up their team, to which the section How to Ensure Gender Balance in R&I Teams is devoted.
Open access (OA) and open science: Open access to scientific publications and results is increasingly being considered in funding calls, and it is discussed in the How to Incorporate OA in Research Practice section of this Toolkit. The evolution towards open science, which includes open access but also open data, open methodologies and open resources for an inquiring society composed of both R&I amateurs and professionals, is a clear policy development worldwide. A guide on open science for H2020 and specific open science training is currently provided by the FOSTER project. For a more thorough analysis and resources, check out the Moving from Open Access to Open Science section in this Toolkit.
Public engagement: Involving the public is beginning to show up as a requirement in funding calls, not only in the communication strategy, but also as part of the research methodology. Research teams are being asked to progressively move from the classic deficit model when designing outreach activities aimed at disseminating information towards a two-way communication with interested actors. In this respect, researchers should consider participatory activities that involve stakeholders, end users and/or the public in contributing to the research process and testing ideas, products or services. One resource is Engage2020’s Action Catalogue, an online tool that enables researchers to find the participatory methods best suited for their project needs. As a further step, there is increasing interest from funders (especially in the Horizon 2020 programme) on citizen science and community-based participatory research, which you can learn more about in this Toolkit.
Science education: Education is usually not explicitly considered in general calls (though many programmes have specific calls for this agenda). However, there are implicit links with the impact section, and evaluators tend to acknowledge the inclusion of learning outcomes for the education community as part of the research impact.
The RRI holistic approach
But what characterises an RRI project goes further than the individual components that underpin the RRI concept. Reflecting on the process dimensions and outcomes (for example, by using the Self-Reflection Tool), anticipating unexpected impacts and incorporating all these considerations through the different sections of the proposal (methods, data, evaluation, impact) can make a more solid project that achieves more socially desirable outputs and can mean a difference in evaluation. In practical terms, introducing the RRI holistic approach in the proposal includes four critical elements:
Being responsible: This refers to commonly accepted, fundamental values of research, such as honesty, fairness, objectivity, reliability, accountability and openness, and strives for an ethical framework, described in the section Integrating Ethics into All phases of the R&I Process.
Adopting a transdisciplinary and multisectorial approach: Doing so allows the confrontation and collaboration of heterogeneous scientific cultures, bringing new perspectives and outcomes, as described in the article Toward Transdisciplinary Research: Historical and Contemporary Perspectives and the report Joining Forces to Save the World: Why We Need Both the Natural and the Social Sciences to Get the Job Done. This is further developed in the proposed Quality Criteria and Indicators for Responsible Research and Innovation: Learning from Transdisciplinarity.
Engaging all stakeholders: Involving policy makers, regulatory bodies, administrations, industry, civil society organisations, end users, and so on, in the project strengthens and legitimises its objectives and its scientific approach towards societal relevance. This requires the identification of relevant actors, the joint definition of objectives and agenda, and the setting up of structures and mechanisms for consultation, deliberation, execution and evaluation, as explained in the section Co-developing R&I.
Assessing the impact of the project: Consider especially the ethical, societal and environmental aspects, with a view to adhering to the ethical framework while maximising societal returns. The Research Council UK’s Pathways to Impact aims to encourage researchers to explore, from the outset and throughout the life of their projects and beyond, who could potentially benefit from their research and what they can do to help make this happen.