Improve Alignment of Research Policy and Societal Values

Science 369 (6499):39-41 (2020)
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Abstract

Historically, scientific and engineering expertise has been key in shaping research and innovation policies, with benefits presumed to accrue to society more broadly over time. But there is persistent and growing concern about whether and how ethical and societal values are integrated into R&I policies and governance, as we confront public disbelief in science and political suspicion toward evidence-based policy-making. Erosion of such a social contract with science limits the ability of democratic societies to deal with challenges presented by new, disruptive technologies, such as synthetic biology, nanotechnology, genetic engineering, automation and robotics, and artificial intelligence. Many policy efforts have emerged in response to such concerns, one prominent example being Europe's Eighth Framework Programme, Horizon 2020, whose focus on “Responsible Research and Innovation” provides a case study for the translation of such normative perspectives into concrete policy action and implementation. Our analysis of this H2020 RRI approach suggests a lack of consistent integration of elements such as ethics, open access, open innovation, and public engagement. On the basis of our evaluation, we suggest possible pathways for strengthening efforts to deliver R&I policies that deepen mutually beneficial science and society relationships.

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