Policy makers and scholars from the social sciences and humanities have advocated for the inclusion of social and ethical aspects (SEAs) in the responsible development and deployment of new science and technology, such as nanotechnology and biotechnology. These SEAs relate to e.g. environmental sustainability, health, public needs, values and opinions, intellectual property, equity and funding. Several methods have been developed and tested to integrate SEAs into science and technology in- the-making, such as constructive technology assessment, value sensitive design and midstream modulation. However, the extent to which these methods contribute to the actual improvement of the quality of innovation practices remains unclear. We recently finished a study that investigated to what extent considerations of SEAs help to improve the quality of research and development (R&D) practices. We used midstream modulation (MM) as an intervention method to integrate such considerations in R&D practice. In MM, researchers from the natural sciences interact (communicate) with a scholar from the social sciences / humanities, to discuss how, where, when and why which SEAs can be included in on-going R&D during a three-month study. We linked the use of MM to the quality of R&D practice, scored based on innovation quality key performance indicators (KPIs). An adapted version of the Dutch Wageningen Innovation Assessment Toolkit was used to measure changes in project performance based on relevant KPIs, relating e.g. to technical performance, but also to socialethical and economic aspects with regard to potential market opportunities and social acceptability upon product implementation in society. Our results show that R&D practices, based on KPI scoring, indeed improve through the use of MM. The quality of teamwork improves and resulting innovations are better attuned to social and political needs, values and opinions, further improving an organisation’s innovative capacity. In future research, the performance measurement part of our study could be deployed to analyse the effect of other communication-based methods on innovation practices. In addition, the used combined qualitative and quantitative approach has the potential to be developed into a decision support system to be used in R&D environments and its supporting science communication processes.

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Public Communication of Science and Technology

 

Enhancing socially responsible innovation with science communication based interventions

Steven Flipse   Delft University of Technology, Nethelands

Maarten van der Sanden   Delft University of Technology, Nethelands

Policy makers and scholars from the social sciences and humanities have advocated for the inclusion of social and ethical aspects (SEAs) in the responsible development and deployment of new science and technology, such as nanotechnology and biotechnology. These SEAs relate to e.g. environmental sustainability, health, public needs, values and opinions, intellectual property, equity and funding. Several methods have been developed and tested to integrate SEAs into science and technology in- the-making, such as constructive technology assessment, value sensitive design and midstream modulation. However, the extent to which these methods contribute to the actual improvement of the quality of innovation practices remains unclear. We recently finished a study that investigated to what extent considerations of SEAs help to improve the quality of research and development (R&D) practices. We used midstream modulation (MM) as an intervention method to integrate such considerations in R&D practice. In MM, researchers from the natural sciences interact (communicate) with a scholar from the social sciences / humanities, to discuss how, where, when and why which SEAs can be included in on-going R&D during a three-month study. We linked the use of MM to the quality of R&D practice, scored based on innovation quality key performance indicators (KPIs). An adapted version of the Dutch Wageningen Innovation Assessment Toolkit was used to measure changes in project performance based on relevant KPIs, relating e.g. to technical performance, but also to socialethical and economic aspects with regard to potential market opportunities and social acceptability upon product implementation in society. Our results show that R&D practices, based on KPI scoring, indeed improve through the use of MM. The quality of teamwork improves and resulting innovations are better attuned to social and political needs, values and opinions, further improving an organisation’s innovative capacity. In future research, the performance measurement part of our study could be deployed to analyse the effect of other communication-based methods on innovation practices. In addition, the used combined qualitative and quantitative approach has the potential to be developed into a decision support system to be used in R&D environments and its supporting science communication processes.

A copy of the full paper has not yet been submitted.

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