Res-AGorA: Responsible research and innovation

This project’s main purpose is to develop a meta-governance framework for responsible research and innovation.

Initiator: EU Commission
2013 – 2016


It was central to the development of this meta-governance framework to introduce co-creation and the involvement of a wide section of stakeholders from all of Europe. In order to achieve this involvement, we designed 5 different workshops which were conducted in centrally located European cities and which were intended for 20-30 participants at a time.

Designing such workshops in the field of tension between the theory of research and the practice of stakeholders can best be described in two steps, of which both attempt to address the common challenge, namely the development of a “meta-governance framework for responsible research and innovation”.

  1. Co-creation processes with scientists
  2. Tailored workshops for stakeholders

Tailored workshops with stakeholders
These workshops lasted two days. The first day was primarily dedicated to the exploration of the participants’ own experiences while the second was an iterative meeting between these experiences and the principles of management, as deducted from the empirical materials by this project. The workshops were designed to stimulate intense group discussions mixed with presentations and taking turns speaking, as well as plenum discussions facilitated by the use of a “talking stick”.

The great challenge was in translating the highly theoretical conceptual framework, still a work in progress for publication, to a concrete method for working with and developing this framework with a wide section of stakeholders. The invited stakeholders had to be well-acquainted and committed to “doing responsible” (ordspil, “ansvarlig-gørelse) in their work, but as the concept was rather new, most of them had rarely or never actually applied this term to their work before. As such, there was a great deal of confusion as to what this might mean for them.

Building a bridge between theory and practice took place as we collaborated with the projects’ researchers on developing an ingenious workshop design which required the participants to reflect and debate the concept of “doing responsible” (ansvarlig-gørelse) in research and innovation, and furthermore define which challenges, barriers and conflicts they considered most urgent based on their own experience with initiating further steps for responsible research in their work. This exploration of self-experienced challenges, barriers and conflicts in connection to “doing responsible” was then compared to the principles and dimensions of the preliminary theoretical framework. This made it possible to test whether the principles were perceived as useful and tangible, and furthermore if what was sought after differed from or were missing from the framework.

The process itself was perceived by the participants as “doing responsible” because the starting point as well as the aim of the process was so non-defined and open from the start, and because the process itself was involving, open and challenging. Furthermore, it was continuously stressed that it was of great importance and value that everyone was heard, which is one of the core values in the concept of “doing responsible” itself as well.