Can Novelty be Responsible?: A Conversation on Science Communication and RRI

Can Novelty be Responsible?: A Conversation on Science Communication and RRI

Author: Tara Roberson – University of Queensland, Australia


  • Maja Horst – Technical University of Denmark, Denmark
  • Alan Irwin – Copenhagen Business School, Denmark
  • Fabien Medvecky – University of Otago, New Zealand
  • Sujatha Raman – Australian National University, Australia

The futures promised by emerging technoscientific developments are framed as disruptive and powerful with applications in wide-ranging areas. Responsible research and innovation (RRI) offers one approach for engaging in conversation around these promises and opening up their presuppositions to scrutiny. For example, the economic, societal, and other benefits of emerging technoscience are uncertain. While the challenge for technoscientific researchers may seem purely technological (how do we realise new technologies?), there are also social and political questions (how do we engage publics in dialogue on new developments when we don’t know what they do or when they will be built? What kinds of social worlds do they enact and how desirable are these?).

Science communication can animate RRI conversations in new ways by exploring how we imagine novelty and its normative significance. This is urgently needed as RRI is often re-interpreted as a way of describing some well-established practices (e.g., risk regulation of new technologies, research integrity and so on) despite efforts by RRI proponents to clarify its distinctive focus on innovation ‘systems’. Understood as risk regulation of technological change, RRI is conventionally framed as a way of slowing down innovation or novelty by attending to ethical matters and unintended consequences.

Yet, RRI might also be understood differently as a way of promoting novelty. For example, ‘responsible stagnation’ requires distinct types of novel social, economic, cultural and technological practices. Remaking research practices and their relationship to publics likewise represents novelty as does the effort to attend to the creation of social change in response to ‘grand societal challenges’. In this roundtable, participants will explore what science communication might contribute to re-constructing narratives of RRI and re-imagining its relationship to more or less responsible forms of novelty.

The author has not yet submitted a copy of the full paper.

Presentation type: Roundtable discussion
Theme: Transformation