Last week, René Wintjes from Maastricht University issued together with Anestis Amanatidis from Leiden University and Norbert Steinhaus from Science Shop Bonn a new blog that reflects the results of the Monitoring & Evaluation meetings that different SwafS14 projects held during 2021. Rener and Maastricht University are part of the RRI2SCALE consortium, in the article, he describes how the project has so far contributed to the meetings.

You can read the article here

About the M&E SwafS meetings

The EC has been trying to align research and scientific outcomes with societal and local needs since the previous decade. This objective was first introduced and articulated in policymaking with the programme ‘Science and Society’, and then ‘Science in Society’ in 2007, which later became ‘Science with and for Society’ (SwafS) under Horizon 2020. The basic assumption is that engaging a pluralism of actors in research and scientific processes will lead to societal relevance and desirability of research outcomes.

Nevertheless, the accumulated experience so far from the implemented SwafS projects indicates that engaging a rich diversity of viewpoints, notwithstanding how fruitful it can be, is a complex task.  It is by now clear from the SwafS ecosystem network of SuperMoRRI that projects face difficulties in involving diverse stakeholders. This has led to a retrospective consideration of the feasibility, mechanisms, and purpose of engaging stakeholders in an effective way in science and research.

The article reflects thoughts and experiences that were collected through SwafS ecosystem activities of the Super_MoRRI project. This is a collective effort with three other RRI SwafS projects: CHERRIESRRI2SCALE and TeRRIFICA.

The contribution of RRI2SCALE

RRI2SCALE brings a unique experience on two fronts, as these are laid out in the article.

First, there is a conceptual and practical complexity in defining regional RRI, as the term region can become itself debatable. The case of the Norwegian pilot Vestland, which was created as an administrative unit in January 2020 with the merge of the two former counties of Hordaland and Sogn og Fjordane, is exemplary. The same is true for the Dutch pilot Overijssel. The latter is essentially a province, or provincial Government, consisting of two sub-regions. As people are more likely to affiliate themselves with a county or a sub-region, engagement at the regional level can become a tricky activity.

Second, the articulation of “tacit” knowledge into “codified” knowledge, is an equally challenging task. In simple terms, how to translate the local needs and concerns of citizens and stakeholders into scientific solutions? The RRI2SCALE experience in the fields of smart cities, energy, and transport, is illuminating. These fields, which are really close to citizens’ daily life, are optimal for examining how fluidities and public demands can result in new paradigms that may inspire scientific research. The coexistence of different languages of stakeholders, of different regions, and of different research domains (e.g. smart city, energy, or transport), is evident in the scenario development of RRI2SCALE, which links informal citizens’ discussions and deliberations on the smart fields with formal validation of scenarios, new narratives, and institutional change.

Each project contributes with a unique experience on the interplay between tacit and codified forms of knowledge, as well as on the accommodation of “differences” at various levels. Even though many questions remain open to answering, the work that has been done so far brings value to the struggle of creating the “right conditions for participation” in the scientific process.

About René Wintjes

Dr. René Wintjes is a senior research fellow at UNU-MERIT, and coordinates the research theme on the economics of innovation. He has previously worked at the Economic Institute for Medium and Small Enterprises and the Faculty of Applied Geography and Planning of Utrecht University, where he obtained his PhD.

Fields of special interest include: research and innovation policy, regional innovation systems, policy evaluation & impact assessment, SME innovation policy instruments, ICT enabled innovation, social innovation, transnational policy learning, and regional embeddedness of FDI. Recent projects include: European Observatory for Clusters and Industrial Change; Investigating the Impact of the Innovation Union (H2020; I3U); New technologies and digitisation: opportunities and challenges for the social economy and social enterprises (for EASME).