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Framework for Responsible Research and Innovation in ICT

(What is this?)

Anticipate

Describing and analysing the impacts, intended or otherwise, (e.g. economic, social, environmental) that might arise. This does not seek to predict but rather to support an exploration of possible impacts and implications that may otherwise remain uncovered and little discussed.

Reflect

Reflecting on the purposes of, motivations for and potential implications of the research, and the associated uncertainties, areas of ignorance, assumptions, framings, questions, dilemmas and social transformations these may bring.

Engage

Opening up such visions, impacts and questioning to broader deliberation, dialogue, engagement and debate in an inclusive way.

What is this?

This Framework is a tool that helps those involved in research and innovation in ICT to do so responsibly. The Framework presented here consists of a set of scaffolding questions that allow researchers, funders and other stakeholders to consider a range of aspects of ICT research. This introduction to the Framework answers the following questions:

What is responsible research and innovation (RRI)?
Why do we need a Framework specifically for ICT?
What does the Framework consist of?
How do I use the Framework?
Can I get more specific guidance on what I need to do?

Responsible research and innovation (RRI) aims to help individuals and organisations to ensure the acceptability and desirability of research and innovation. It is an agenda that has been adopted by major research funders including the European Commission and the UK Engineering and Physical Science Research Council (EPSRC). The EPSRC has published a framework for RRI that is based on the following four principles:

Process

Process refers to the processes undertaken in research and innovation. These cover all activities in preparing research, undertaking data collection and analysis, storage and presentation of data and interaction with respondents.

Product

Responsible Research and Innovation (RRI) is specifically
concerned with the outcomes of research and innovation activities. This can refer to products or services. It includes the consequences of use as well as misuse of research products and the impact that research has on the natural and social environment.

Purpose

Critical scrutiny in RRI extends beyond the conduct (process) and outcome (product) of research and covers the question why research is undertaken at all. The purpose of research is a crucial factor influencing acceptability and desirability and thus open to scrutiny.

People

Research and innovation are undertaken by people and for people and have intended and unintended consequences for people. People are at the heart of RRI and need to be explicitly considered.

Anticipate

Describing and analysing the impacts, intended or otherwise, (e.g. economic, social, environmental) that might arise. This does not seek to predict but rather to support an exploration of possible impacts and implications that may otherwise remain uncovered and little discussed.

Reflect

Reflecting on the purposes of, motivations for and potential implications of the research, and the associated uncertainties, areas of ignorance, assumptions, framings, questions, dilemmas and social transformations these may bring.

Engage

Opening up such visions, impacts and questioning to broader deliberation, dialogue, engagement and debate in an inclusive way.

Act

Using these processes to influence the direction and trajectory of the research and innovation process itself.

Why do we need a Framework specifically for ICT?

RRI is a topic that is strongly debated in more contested areas of research and technology, such as nanotechnology, synthetic biology or geoengineering. There are, however, some characteristics or features of ICT that set them apart from other fields. Key among them are:

Speed of innovation and diffusion
Ubiquity and pervasiveness
Applied and fundamental research
Logical malleability
Problem of many hands
Multitude of Backgrounds

What does the Framework consist of?

The Framework maps the four main components of the EPSRC AREA principles against four core aspects of RRI:

Process refers to the processes undertaken in research and innovation. These cover all activities in preparing research, undertaking data collection and analysis, storage and presentation of data and interaction with respondents.

Product, RRI is specifically interested in the outcomes of research and innovation activities. This can refer to products or services. It includes the consequences of use as well as misuse of research products and the impact that research has on the natural and social environment.

Purpose. Critical scrutiny in RRI extends beyond the conduct (process) and outcome (product) of research and covers the question why research is undertaken at all. The purpose of research is a crucial factor influencing acceptability and desirability and thus open to scrutiny.

People. Research and innovation are undertaken by people and for people and have intended and unintended consequences for people. People are at the heart of RRI and need to be explicitly considered.

By mapping the AREA principles against the PPPP components of RRI, this framework creates the space to think about details of how RRI can be made relevant to ICT.

The framework consists of a set of questions that allow a researcher, funder, policymaker or other interested party to structure the way they think about research. It can be used to gain an overview of all sorts of different aspects of RRI in ICT. It can furthermore be utilised to gain insight into specific issues, questions or applications.

This Framework aims to provide a comprehensive overview that allows different stakeholders to navigate their way through RRI in ICT. Many of the issues, questions and suggestions are not likely to be relevant to all stakeholders or problems. The Framework has therefore been used to create a set of stakeholder-specific guidelines and recommendations that are more accessible and user friendly and easier to implement. Specific guidelines include those for

Researchers
Universities
Funders
Industry
Civil Society
(NB these are under construction)

This Framework for RRI in ICT builds on and incorporates the broader EPSRC framework. It draws on research undertaken in the Framework for Responsible Research and Innovation in ICT to provide more detailed insights into how principles of RRI can be implemented.

This Framework is informed by characteristics that are typical for ICT, notably the high speed of innovation and diffusion, ubiquity and pervasiveness of ICT, the difficult distinction between applied and fundamental research, the logical malleability of ICT many artefacts and the problem of many hands that renders it particularly difficult to hold individuals accountable for the consequences of ICT use.