Session 5 Scientists and their publics (2)

21st June, 14.00-16.00, Chair: Nina Amelung, Room Polivalente

MoRRI (Monitoring the Evolution and Benefits of Responsible Research and Innovation) framework: focus on public engagement and governance, Ingeborg Meijer (CWTS, Leiden University, The Netherlands), Stefan de Jong (LURIS and CWTS, Leiden University, The Netherlands), Inge van der Weijden (CWTS, Leiden University, The Netherlands)

In recent years, the notion of Responsible Research and Innovation (RRI) has emerged in European policy making. From the perspective of the European Commission (EC), the purpose of promoting RRI is “to build effective cooperation between science and society, to recruit new talent for science and to pair scientific excellence with social awareness and responsibility”[1].

Building on work by Von Schomberg[2], the EC defines RRI as a process, which allows “all societal actors (researchers, citizens, policy makers, business, third sector organisations etc.) to work together during the whole research and innovation process in order to better align both the process and its outcomes with the values, needs and expectations of European society”. In operational terms, the EC brings dimensions of public engagement, gender equality, science literacy and science education, open access, ethics and governance under the RRI umbrella.

So far, efforts to ‘mainstream’ RRI across the European research area have been modestly successful[3]. Studies indicate significant obstacles, pertaining not least to disincentivizing reward structures at both organisational and individual level[4]. While ‘pairing’ responsibility and scientific excellence is an explicit aim for the RRI agenda, they are in reality often perceived as contradictory demands.

In this contribution we focus on two keys of RRI – public engagement and governance – and discuss three Leiden initiatives in support of RRI:

Public Engagement involves citizen engagement and participation of societal actors in research and innovation.

    1. The Leiden Observatory has developed a ‘Blueprint for public engagement appraisal’[5] with the aim to support research careers: time spent performing public engagement is severely undervalued by research institutions. The framework utilizes the supervision system that is already in place at many research institutions, whereby senior researchers mentor their junior colleagues. This would encourage more researchers to engage with the public, as well as increasing the quality of this engagement.
    2. Since 2014, the knowledge exchange office of Leiden University employs a team of knowledge brokers. Knowledge brokers are ‘people whose job it is to move knowledge around and create connections between researchers and their various audiences.[6]Leiden University’s knowledge brokers provide information about public engagement to academics, bring expertise of academics under the attention of public and private partners, gather research questions from these partners and support collaborations with them. The resulting collaborations and networks should promote the availability of academic knowledge to non-academics.
  • Governance, is a horizontal dimension cross-cutting the other keys and includes the verification of performance. Research evaluation in the Netherlands utilizes the Standard Evaluation Protocol (SEP) 2015-2021, which now includes societal relevance in addition to research quality and viability. Leiden University use the so-called Impact Matrix, a model developed by CWTS to support the collection of evidence for the societal relevance criterion[7]. The Impact Matrix is characterized by specifying between private, public and professional domains to ensure economic, cultural and social returns.

Discussing these examples will highlight that the ability to evaluate, compare, and benchmark ‘performance’ in terms of RRI at the institutional as well as disaggregated levels, may depend on  revision of career tracks and reward schemes in order to further support the mainstreaming of RRI.


[2] Von Schomberg, Rene (2013). “A vision of responsible innovation”. In: R. Owen, M. Heintz and J. Bessant (eds.) Responsible Innovation. London: John Wiley.

[3] Mejlgaard, N. and Griessler, E. (fortcoming). “Monitoring RRI in Europe: Approach and Key Observations”. In Lindner, R. et al (eds.) Navigating towards shared responsibility in research and innovation. Niels Mejlgaard & Erich Griessler


[5] A Blueprint for Public Engagement Appraisal: Supporting Research Careers. October 8, 2015. Josh Borrow and Pedro Russo, Leiden Observatory.

[6] Morgan Meyer (2010). The rise of the knowledge broker. In: Science Communication 32, pp 118-127.

[7] Ingeborg Meijer (2012). Societal returns of scientific research. How can we measure it? CWTS-WP-2012-014


Children and Citizenship. Lessons from a Participatory Design Process to Develop a Social Robot, Núria Vallès & Miquel Domènech (Universitat Autònoma de Barcelona, Spain)

This presentation explores some issues emerged in an on-going research about an experience of participatory design (PD) with children to develop a social robot for hospitalized children. It reflects on the tensions between the concept of children’s participation, based in their right of citizenship, and the “model of citizenship” that constrains or modules children’s performativity.

In the PD experience six year old children have collaborated during 3 months with a team of engineers and social scientists, as part of a widest interdisciplinary project within a Catalan children’s hospital that is developing a innovative program to introduce social robots in its daily dynamics of children’s therapy and accompaniment. It was organised around a set of workshops, each one with its own purposes, previously defined by the interdisciplinary research team. Six workshops were defined, conducted alongside 12 sessions. A total of 60 pupils participated in the process, organised in small groups to facilitate dynamics and interactions.

The PD process is analysed throw a focalised ethnography, a useful methodology for this type of social applied research. The focused ethnography is done gathering information of observations and recordings, analysing all materials produced during the workshops (draws, paste-modelled prototypes and lego-robotics prototypes) and doing informal interviews with children participating in the PD.

The results look into the dynamics accomplished during the PD process, on how children’s performativity emerged in a defined participatory framework. Although recognising very positive participation experiences, we problematize participation of children, analysing their ambiguous or even manipulative involvement. We enquire into how the PD process carried out in a school frames possibility conditions of children’s involvement, a scenario where times, routines, spaces and conducts are completely ruled. Moreover, the methodology of a participatory experience is based on a problem basic logic, a path which brings us into final solution to a fixed problem. In which stage of problem definition we introduce children? In its relationship with science and technology, how children are involved into the definition of needs and future technological developments?

Analysing these kinds of questions we critically reflect on how the participation of children in science and technology processes is constructed on the basis of specific form of citizenship. Performativity of children during the process, acting and doing far away from the boundaries of the previously defined participation process, appears as an opportunity to discuss the possibilities that science and technology reserves for “citizens” and its role in defining needs or solving defined problems.

i This paper refers to work funded by the National R+D+i Program of the Ministry of Economy and Competitively of Spain (TECSAL Project, ref. CS-2014-59136-P).


Turning the gaze on ourselves: public communication of sociology, Ana Delicado (ICS ULisboa, Portugal)

As one of the more visible dimensions of science and society relations and under its myriad of labels, public communication of science has become, in the past few decades, a branch of scientific activity, an industry, a career, and a field of academic enquiry. Countless pages have been devoted to examining what, how, why, and who is doing communication of science to the public. But the very concept of science is little problematized in these analyses. Nevertheless, what counts as science that has to be communicated usually leaves out the social sciences.

Sociology, in particular, has an intricate relation with public communication. By custom, it is fairly accessible outside academia: publication in book form and in native languages, open conferences and lectures, work on topics that are familiar and close to societal concerns. Also, engagements with the public are necessary methodological tools. From the more traditional interviews and surveys to the more participatory techniques of consultation workshops or action-research, citizens are an indispensable component of doing research in sociology.

And yet, sociology seems to not quite fit the current models of mainstream public communication of science. It is mostly absent from museums and from science coverage in the media, it has difficulties in offering laboratory and hands-on activities, or even open days at research institutions. It is usually entirely absent or at least at the margins of public policies and programmes for promoting science communication. Additionally, the internationalisation of the discipline may have partly distanced it from its national publics, with the emphasis on publication in English language journals, protected by paywalls, and the redirectioning of work towards topics determined by international research agendas and collaborations.

This presentation aims not only to discuss these issues but also to examine how sociology is finding novel ways to respond to this ‘new’ demand. It is based on an analysis of the communication activities of Portuguese sociology research centres, projects and associations, relying on document analysis and exploratory interviews.