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Science in Dialogue - Conference during the Danish EU presidency

Final Report Summary - SID (Science in dialogue - Conference during the Danish EU presidency)

Executive Summary:

Denmark took over the Presidency of the Council of the European Union (EU) on 1 January 2012. In the area of research and innovation, the most pertinent issue for the Presidency was the objective of reaching a partial general approach on the European Commission (EC)'s proposal for a framework for EU research and innovation funding from 2014 - 2020, Horizon 2020. The proposal was presented on 30 November 2011 and discussed for the first time in the council on 6 December 2011.

In order to facilitate the further discussions among the Member States on the EC's proposal, the Danish presidency organised several meetings and conferences which focused on key areas related to Horizon 2020. Amongst these was the conference titled 'Science in dialogue - Towards a European model for responsible research and innovation'.

The conference took place at 23-25 April 2012 in Odense. A total of 160 delegates from all over Europe participated and more than 35 highly qualified speakers and panelists contributed to the conference. The conference was organised by the Danish Agency for Science, Technology and Innovation (DASTI) in collaboration with the independent think tank DEA (Danish Business Research Academy) and SDU.

The overall objective of the conference was to contribute to the development of the concept of responsible research and innovation (RRI) by offering a platform for a European discussion of the concept from different angles and perspectives. RRI will likely play an important role in the future European research and innovation framework and the need to further develop the concept, as well as discussing ways to incorporate this in research discourse and practice is needed.

The conference format was designed to support dialogue and interaction between the participants. During all plenary sessions, iPads were distributed to the conference participants, allowing them to easily ask questions and pose comments to the speakers and panellists throughout the sessions. This ensured a dynamic format and a high level of interaction between the delegates and the speakers. Furthermore, a substantial part of the parallel workshops on the second conference day was dedicated to working sessions that presented the conference participants with an opportunity to share their ideas and experiences face-to-face in smaller groups.

Amongst the sentiments expressed at the conference were:
- the concept of RRI which emphasises science's social responsibility should be widely used in the development of Horizon 2020;
- stakeholders in society should be consulted in the prioritisation of research agendas;
- society's innovation capacity can be heightened through the involvement of citizens, non-governmental organisations (NGOs) and the private sector in the production of knowledge;
- fruitful answers and solutions to the great societal challenges are dependent on cooperation between science, innovation and stakeholders in society such as the public sector and NGOs;
- researchers and entrepreneurs have a responsibility to regard their research and development in a societal context.

Additionally, 17 suggestions for future action to promote RRI on both national and international level were produced by the conference participants. The suggestions ranged from making cooperation with stakeholders obligatory in parts of Horizon 2020 to suggestions for open innovation processes that would benefit both companies and citizens.

Project context and objectives:

Research and innovation have an increasing impact on all levels of European society. The Lund Declaration (2009) states that European research must move beyond the thematic approaches undertaken in previous Framework Programmes (FPs) and focus on the so-called 'grand challenges' of our time. The same point is stressed in the '2020 Vision' for the European Research Area (ERA) which states that ERA is firmly rooted in society and should be responsive to its needs and ambitions. The Europe '2020 Vision' emphasises that present and future societal challenges can be tackled effectively only if societal interests and organisations are fully engaged and as included as possible in research and innovation processes. Likewise, the EU 2020 Flagship Initiative Innovation Union will rely on support from a wide range of stakeholders, including scientists and the general public, to be fully implemented and deliver the desired societal challenges.

With the aim of fulfilling these strategies, the EC's next FP for research and innovation, Horizon 2020, is organised around a series of 'societal grand challenges'. These grand challenges, according to the Lund Declaration, must engage all major stakeholders, including the European institutions, businesses, public services, NGOs and the research community. Bringing science to deliver on the solutions needed for addressing major societal challenges means that dialogue, interaction and mutual responsiveness between the different parties are more vital than ever.

In continuation of this, the engagement of society must be the underlying mindset and precondition for all the challenges addressed in Horizon 2020, as well as for other future European frameworks. It must be made sure that European research and innovation are based on the principle of responsibility.

RRI is one of the main focal areas in the current Science in Society programme and an important element in the overall goal of delivering solutions to the grand challenges. However, the concept needs further elaboration in order to be incorporated in future European framework as well as in the research discourse and practice. A clear and realistic strategy for developing the notion of and the implementation of RRI needs to be developed. In addition, more discussions and reflections on the topic among stakeholders at a pan-European level are needed in order to make the concept more integrated in the mindset of the European community.

Society is sensitive to science and technology issues, and the long-term impact of science and technology is often hard to predict. Therefore, a continuous interaction and dialogue between academia, innovators and society as well as a shared and well understood responsibility is a central challenge and precondition for the success in terms of the social robustness and mutual trust of the European science and innovation system. A new social contract and strengthened ties between science and society are called for.

The conference objectives and corresponding achievements were as follows:
Objective 1 - Offer a platform for stakeholders from Europe and abroad to discuss and reflect on the interaction and dialogue between science and society
Around 160 participants, representing a wide range of stakeholders, participated in the conference. Among the participating parties were policy makers at European, national and regional level, industry, university and other research organisations as well as civil society representatives, representatives from NGOs and professional science communicators (deliverable 4.1. 'List of participants'). The conference programme presented several high-level politicians, including the Danish Minister for Science, Innovation and Higher Education, members of the European Parliament Teresa Riera Madurell (rapporteur on Horizon 2020) and Britta Thomsen. Furthermore, a video message was delivered by the European Commissioner for research, innovation and science. In addition, the director for DG Research and Innovation spoke at the closing session along with the director general of the DASTI.

Objective 2 - Provide input on aspects of a European model for RRI
The conference discussions, as well as the produced suggestions on how to move Europe towards a model for RRI have been collected in the a conference report (deliverable 4.2. 'Conference report') that has been widely distributed and can be used for a future development of the concept of RRI.

By offering a platform for discussing and thereby increasing the awareness of the need to include more stakeholders in European research and innovation processes, the conference has contributed to raise the awareness of the concept of RRI. Furthermore, the discussions of the conference have been presented to a wide range of stakeholders in a dedicated session entitled 'Can RRI expedite Europe's growth?' at Euroscience open forum 2012 organised by Durham University.

Objective 3 - Provide input to future instruments for research funding
The discussions and output of the conference have been presented to central politicians at a European level, including Horizon 2020 rapporteur and MEP Teresa Riera Madurell, thereby feeding into the ongoing formation of Horizon 2020. The topic of RRI and how to engage more stakeholders in research and innovation processes was discussed at an informal policy seminar on 8 May 2012 on Horizon 2020 hosted by MEP Amalia Sartori (chairwoman of the ITRE committee) and the Danish Minister for Science, Innovation and Higher Education. Amongst the participants were a number of MEPs, delegations from the different Member States, including both the Polish and Cypriote ministers, and Director General Robert-Jan Smits from EC. In addition, the results of the conference were presented at the competitiveness council meeting on 31 May.

Objective 4 - Promote a basis for the successful solution of the grand challenges in Horizon 2020
The discussions of the conference stressed the need to include more stakeholders and a wider range of society in research and innovation processes and projects. The conference produced a number of suggestions on how to involve society's stakeholders in tackling grand challenges and presented cases and best practices on cooperation between stakeholders when dealing with big challenges to society, thereby contributing to a more sustainable development that is in line with society's needs and demands.

Objective 5 - Facilitate the formation of professional networks, knowledge sharing, and exchange of best practices
The University of Southern Denmark offered an intimate surrounding which allowed for a very high degree of knowledge sharing. Furthermore, the format of the conference offered plenty of opportunities for formal and informal dialogues and exchange of ideas and best practice between the participants (e.g. through workshops, an exhibition area, social programme).

The conference delegates expressed a very positive attitude towards the overall organisation of the conference. 83 % of the delegates who answered the online evaluation form found the overall organisation of the conference excellent or very good. The remaining 17 % answered satisfactory (none of the 34 persons who replied ticked the boxes acceptable or poor).

Project results:

The conference discussions were collected in a conference report. A dedicated overall conference rapporteur was assigned and produced part of the content together with the dedicated workshop chairs and rapporteurs from the project team.

Among the sentiments that was expressed during the conference were:
- the concept of RRI which emphasises science's social responsibility should be widely used in the development of Horizon 2020;
- stakeholders in society should be consulted in the prioritisation of research agendas;
- society's innovation capacity can be heightened through the involvement of citizens, NGOs and the private sector in the production of knowledge;
- fruitful answers and solutions to the great societal challenges are dependent on cooperation between science, innovation and stakeholders in society such as the public sector and NGOs;
- researchers and entrepreneurs have a responsibility to regard their research and development in a societal context.

During the second conference day, five parallel workshops dealing with the following topics were held:
- learning from dialogue between science and its publics;
- ethics and emerging technologies;
- inclusive and open innovation;
- engaging stakeholders in setting research agendas and creating visions for European Futures;
- a fruitful relationship between research and politics.

The first part of the workshops presented 3-4 examples of best practices and highlighted well-functioning ways of ensuring a public engagement in science and innovation within the specific workshop topic.

During the second part of the workshops, the participants were asked to define what they saw as key challenges within the workshop topic based on the previous discussions and presentations. Each workshop was then split up into smaller groups (five - six people) and each group was asked to identify, describe and suggest ways to tackle a particular challenge at both European and national level to develop the field of RRI.

List of Websites: http://www.scienceindialogue.dk