The EPSRC’s Policy of Responsible Innovation from a Trading Zones Perspective

Minerva 54 (2):151-174 (2016)
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Responsible innovation is gathering momentum as an academic and policy debate linking science and society. Advocates of RI in research policy argue that scientific research should be opened up at an early stage so that many actors and issues can steer innovation trajectories. If this is done, they suggest, new technologies will be more responsible in different ways, better aligned with what society wants, and mistakes of the past will be avoided. This paper analyses the dynamics of RI in policy and practice and makes recommendations for future development. More specifically, we draw on the theory of ‘trading zones’ developed by Peter Galison and use it to analyse two related processes: the development and inclusion of RI in research policy at the UK’s Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council ; the implementation of RI in relation to the Stratospheric Particle Injection for Climate Engineering project. Our analysis reveals an RI trading zone comprised of three quasi-autonomous traditions of the research domain – applied science, social science and research policy. It also shows how language and expertise are linking and coordinating these traditions in ways shaped by local conditions and the wider context of research. Building on such insights, we argue that a sensible goal for RI policy and practice at this stage is better local coordination of those involved and we suggest ways how this might be achieved.



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Joseph Murphy
Montclair State University

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