Integrate RRI as a cross-cutting issue in the EU framework programme for R&I. Use the SwafS programme to advance EU’s Open Science agenda! These were some of the suggestions raised during an evening discussion held on 15 November 2016 in Brussels organised by SiS.net, the network of National Contact Points for the SwafS programme and the Swedish national advocacy platform on Swafs.
How best to open science to society was the theme of the event, aiming at bringing policy makers and stakeholders of SwafS, Science with and for Society, together to discuss the future of the SwafS work programme, particularly in light of the next framework programme, FP9.
A panel discussed and reflected on the main achievements of the SwafS programme in the first half of Horizon 2020. Philippe Galiay, who works with SwafS in DG Research and Innovation at the European Commission, pointed out how far the SwafS/RRI agenda have evolved and how RRI, Responsible Research and Innovation, has now become a practical tool to implement operational interfaces between science and society.
There is every possibility that SwafS will be more integrated in FP9 and even become a standalone programme. This was welcomed by Cissi Askwall, Secretary General of VA (Public & Science) and a member of the SiS.net expert group on SwafS, pointing out that although the importance of RRI and SwafS is often highlighted at European level, it is not reflected enough in the specific work programmes.
Ignasi López from Fundación La Caixa, SiS.net Expert Group Chairman and RRI Tools Project Coordinator, reflected on how SwafS and RRI have become more integrated over time. The EC has moved from funding conceptual projects at the end of FP7 to more RRI application-orientated ones in H2020, and now the focus has moved onto promoting institutional change that fosters RRI. The next step, according to López, is to develop applied operational RRI tools that can help to change the way the research is performed and funded.
Already today, open access publishing of research results from EC funded projects is mandatory. Galiay mentioned the current pilot actions on open research data that are looking at data protection and privacy issues. Once the pilots are concluded, not only open access but also making research data open can become mandatory in FP9.
López mentioned the EU’s GDPR (General Data Protection Regulation) and its importance, particularly as there is concern about implementing open data in some EU countries and regions due to social reluctance relating to privacy issues. Michal Boni, a MEP and member of ITRE, the European Parliament’s Committee on Industry, Research and Energy, called for new tools to be developed that allow research results to be shared with society.
Deeper interaction with citizens needed
Discussing opportunities and challenges for implementing SwafS and RRI post H2020, López mentioned possible obstacles for stakeholders: lack of time, lack of funding, lack of freedom to do research, and regulations that might create barriers to innovation. Askwall stressed the importance for science, research and innovation to be as open as possible and that new incentives are needed to encourage research projects to have better and deeper interactions with citizens. Galiay highlighted the growing citizen science movement in the EU and that the EC is discussing how it could support and become more involved in citizen science.
KPIs for SwafS
The panel also talked about the importance of having useful KPIs (key performance indicators) for SwafS. The two KPIs (number of institutional changes for RPO’s and RFO’s; proportion of projects influenced by citizens or CSO’s) will be evaluated at the end of H2020. Galiay recognised that it will be hard to evaluate and achieve them due to their complexity. The question that remains unanswered is how to involve citizens and CSO’s in research projects in a way that achieves impact. A benchmark needs to be applied to measure how the KPI’s have been realised in H2020, leading to recommendations for FP9.
SwafS beyond H2020
Looking towards the next Framework Programme, FP9, López said RRI is a concept that needs further development. He saw this as one of the challenges, because every research action that receives funding needs to relate to quality of life and social issues too.
Askwall commented that societal challenges that are central to H2020 should be a key part of FP9 too. To solve these challenges, we need to engage all different types of stakeholders including industry (and citizens too). This includes showing how RRI is a key part of the Open Science Agenda.
Galiay agreed that there should be more activities that involve citizens. Boni added that innovation is a key part of the future and we need to prepare future citizens for life-long learning with skills to adjust to new challenges (i.e the digital revolution, coding, robotics etc). Open science, citizen science and education will be a part of this innovation.
The participants were invited to share their views using the fishbowl format. There was general agreement that more activities and focus on involving citizens themselves in research and innovation are important. Again, citizen science, science education and open science were highlighted as areas that could be further developed at European level.
The evening concluded with presentations of twelve ongoing projects, which represent the different parts of Responsible Research and Innovation; gender, ethics, governance, science education, public engagement and open science, and are funded by the SwafS programme: RRI Tools, FoTTRIS, GENPORT, ENGAGE2020, CASI, PE2020, CIMULACT, SPARKS, GENDERNET, HEIRRI, NUCLEUS and PERFORM. The general conclusion of the event was that the future seems bright for the SwafS programme.
SiS.net is the international network of National Contact Points (NCPs) for Science with and for Society in Horizon 2020. The network unites more than 70 representatives from countries participating in Horizon 2020, in Europe and beyond.
The Swedish Advocacy Platform for SwafS brings together some fifty organisations, government agencies, research centres and individual researchers with the aim of increasing Swedish awareness of SwafS and RRI, and works to increase the embedding of RRI concerns throughout Horizon 2020. The SwafS platform is coordinated by VA (Public & Science).