Traditional innovation is often in the thrall of the pursuit of the new, regardless of whether the new is desirable. In contrast, “Responsible Innovation” (RI) involves both reflection by scientists and other innovators on why they are doing what they do, and, in its most robust forms, includes other voices in the deliberations over whether such pursuit is appropriately directed.
As such, it concerns both the end goals of innovative enterprises and the means by which those efforts reach their goals. It requires reflection on the impacts of scientific and technological innovation on society, and thinking through possible scenarios for the future. RI calls for new spaces in which deliberations over science and technology can occur, and invites new actors to participate in those deliberations, including not just experts and regulators but also stakeholders and citizens.
Ultimately, Responsible Innovation rejects technological determinism, and instead seeks to uphold human agency in the process of innovation. People must decide which paths to follow, which opportunities to pursue, which risks to take. Responsible Innovation is about making such decisions with thought and care, and in a most inclusive way.
For more depth, we recommend: Responsible innovation: A primer for policymakers by Walter D. Valdivia and David H. Guston.
A working definition and information on “Responsible Research and Innovation” (RRI) are available on the RRI-Tools Site of the European Union.
Useful Reading List: A Reading List on the Fourth Industrial Revolution (World Economic Forum).
Useful Resource Site: Fondazione Giannino Bassetti.