Voluntary measures, participation and fundamental rights in the governance of research and innovation

Reflections on a ‘constitutional’ model for Responsible Research and Innovation

Responsible Research and Innovation (RRI) aims at being a new governance paradigm aiming at steering the innovation process in a participative manner by constructing responsibility as a shared process between innovators and societal stakeholders, rather than a remedy to its failures. In order to achieve those goals, RRI implements a collaborative and inclusive process between innovators and societal stakeholders, widely based on the idea of granting a wider participation of societal actors to the innovation process. The purpose of steering the research and innovation processes through participation of societal actors is one of the distinguishing characteristics of RRI approach, which this way aims at taking into account the increasing political implications of scientific innovation. In order to do so, RRI model promotes governance strategies focusing on actors’ responsibilisation, which make appeal to actors’ capacity of reciprocal commitment towards some common goals not mandated by the law. Whilst voluntary non-binding regulatory approaches seem to be the ‘natural’ way to implement RRI in practice, nevertheless some concern remains about the scope and the limits of the contextual agreements reached each time, in particular their capacity to grant respect to some fundamental values, which are part of the European political and legal culture, and which are at risk to become freely re-negotiable within the RRI context if we base it only on the idea of autonomy, participation and consent. On the contrary, the paper argues that, if it wants to be coherent with its premises, RRI governance model needs to be complemented with a reference to fundamental rights, in order to give normative anchor-points to the confrontations between divergent views and values accompanying the development of technological innovation.




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