Interactions among societal and professional RTDI actors in four different futures

Attila Havas, Stephanie Daimer (Vortragende:r)

Publikation: Beitrag in Buch oder TagungsbandVortrag mit Beitrag in TagungsbandBegutachtung


Background and Rationale
There is a growing consensus in the literature that it is crucial to better align research, technology, development and innovation (RTDI) activities with societal needs. Hence, in Daimer et al. (2021) we focussed on the interactions between societal and professional actors (ISPA) in RTDI activities. These interactions can evolve by taking radically different directions, and thus we opted for developing scenarios to consider the possible futures of society, research, and innovation in the EU. Having considered 16 major factors that are likely to shape the future of societally engaged RTDI activities, workshop participants had concluded that the most influential factors are the prevailing ideological stances and political practices; in brief, the future of democracy in the EU member states. Thus, the political system, which is treated as an external condition in the innovation system literature, had been considered to have more impact on ISPA than other factors considered at the workshop. For example, the research and discussion about the future of responsible research and innovation (RRI), where our work stems from, takes place to a large part at an instrumental level, e.g., about developing and introducing the appropriate tools, methods, and policies to promote inclusive and transparent participation, or devising and applying the adequate evaluation instruments to identify and assess its benefits. However, these aspects are of secondary significance compared to the external conditions, especially the dominant ideology and the concomitant political system. We identified four radically different types of political systems: participatory, libertarian, authoritarian/ populist, and technocratic. In the Kingdom of RRI citizens participate directly in decision-making processes; Fortress Europe depicts a liberal-with-tendency-to-libertarian system; Failed Democracy is a populist-with-tendency-to-autocratic regime; while Benevolent Green Eurocrats describes a strong, technocratically coordinated state. Clearly, the idea of RRI as an anticipatory, reflexive, deliberative and inclusive approach is completely ignored, manipulated, or very selectively applied in the latter three scenarios. These scenarios depict somewhat extreme versions of distinct political regimes, relying on the dominant ideological stance, and hence they imply different ISPA framings. These four scenarios offered novel insights into the nature and repercussions of possible policy problems. We discussed issues related to efficacy of STI policies, efficiency of policy-making processes; legitimacy of research and innovation activities; societal involvement in RTDI activities; equity (as access to novel, superior solutions; and freedom of research in each scenario.

All the (groups of) actors have some leeway to shape ISPA in these four different scenarios. The proposed presentation would extend Daimer et al. (2021) by considering the future of ISPA in these four futures. This simple exercise would juxtapose the aims, types, and forms of ISPA, on the one hand, and the major features of the four futures, on the other. Thus, we propose a deeper analysis of the scenarios presented in the paper. While scenario analysis can take different forms (e.g. participatory/ co-creative, qualitative literature-based extension, indicator development and quantitative modelling), our approach will be to substantiate different forms and developments of ISPA based on STS and political science literature.

(Anticipated) Results
The main aims of a particular interaction range from popularisation of science and technology, dissemination of scientific and technological results, demonstrating their benefits to societies, and attracting young talents to start a career in research. More ambitious aims are to consider ethical and gender aspects of RTDI activities; assess emerging technologies, e.g. their expected societal, economic, and environmental impacts; discuss or jointly set research agendas at various levels (single organisations, regions, countries or group of countries); conduct and/or evaluate RTDI projects in collaboration; deliberate on current and future policy tools aimed at promoting RTDI activities and ISPA, as well as improving their framework conditions; and decide on public funds to support RTDI activities (again, at various levels). Achieving these goals would necessitate different types and forms of ISPA. For some, one-way communications might be sufficient, while others would require genuine dialogues or even collaboration among partners mobilising their different kinds of expertise, experience, aspirations, values and norms, worldviews, and ways of thinking. Clearly, various means and channels of communications and different types of activities would be appropriate for the above objectives of ISPA. Further, ISPA can be regular or ad hoc; formal or informal; open or closed (in terms of participation); systemic or sporadic; and transparent or opaque. Finally, ISPA can be genuine and substantive vs. tokenistic, even deceptive; inclusive and responsive vs. condescending and patronising; might develop vs. neglect citizens’ capacities; and rely or not on co-creation of knowledge with citizens.

With this approach in Daimer et al (2021) we contributed to the RRI literature in two ways: i) we considered possible, fundamentally different futures of society, research, and innovation, as opposed to analysing current or recent RRI practices and STI policies; and ii) we put the emphasis on the political conditions, as opposed to proposing future RRI principles and instruments per se. With the proposed presentation we aim to add to this by deepening insights on types, forms, and functions of ISPA in different political framework conditions. This would not only allow to revisit and deepen implications for policy as done in Daimer et al (2021), but also to discuss potential implications for societal and professional actors in RTDI, for example as regards required resources, capabilities, and institutions (formal and informal). The broader background this knowledge should be connected to, are the more fundamental changes in our societies, perceived and factual inequalities, leading to mistrust in actors and institutions (political ones but also other building blocks of societies, like the science system), and ultimately the fact that democratic systems are being challenged by these developments (as we saw again in the recent Swedish and Italian elections). Scenario analysis, and in particular the systematic derivation of 'action spaces' that can be shaped by the different actors sheds a new light on the responsibility of professional RTDI actors that matters already for todays' actions.

Daimer, S, A Havas, K Cuhls, M Yorulmaz, P Vrgovic (2021): Multiple futures for society, research, and innovation in the European Union: jumping to 2038, Journal of Responsible Innovation, 8 (2): 148–174, DOI: 10.1080/23299460.2021.1978692
TitelAtlanta Conference on Science and Innovation Policy, 2023 Abstracts book
PublikationsstatusVeröffentlicht - 2023
Veranstaltung9th Atlanta Conference on Science and Innovation Policy - GeorgiaTech, Atlanta, USA/Vereinigte Staaten
Dauer: 24 Mai 202326 Mai 2023


Konferenz9th Atlanta Conference on Science and Innovation Policy
Land/GebietUSA/Vereinigte Staaten

Research Field

  • Societal Futures
  • Innovation Policy and Transformation


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