Why is RRI training in higher education institutions necessary to strengthen the relationship between science and society? 

Educating today’s students, who are members of society and future researchers, is critical for developing a responsible voice of tomorrow. An education beyond the technical core of the subjects is necessary to engage students as committed, active, thinking citizens in the development of our societies. In this context, HEIRRI aims to align the system of research and innovation with the needs, expectations and the values of society. However, in order to achieve such convergence, future researchers should be trained to understand the ethical, social needs of their communities.

Consequently, HEIRRI addresses RRI inciting critical evaluation instead of the passive acceptance of hard facts. Students are engaged to question their perceived ideas about models of how the world works. Using a problem solving methodology, students can understand the social, economic, and ethical benefits of RRI issues.

Educational tools are designed to help students at evaluating, comparing, and contrasting choices when making crucial decisions in their lives. That is why HEIRRI wants to encourage students to be more responsible and responsive professionals, able to better frame their research in their societal context. HEIRRI aims to provide students with a sense of responsibility, a self-reflection of their own role in society, and an assessment of the positions they will take after a completed education. Overall, an RRI education aligns science closer to society by tackling challenges from an open perspective and in a more transdisciplinary manner.

Additionally, the need to integrate RRI education in the early stages of professional development such as university courses is emphasized in the RRI system. According to the 2013 Report of the Expert group on the State of Art In Europe and Responsible Research and Innovation, “awareness, knowledge and acquisition of skills and tools incorporate RRI as a regular part of professional practice should be learned as early as possible”. In the long term, seeding RRI principles in the earliest stages of tertiary education will reduce training costs for member states, and it will increase the social benefit and social relevance of European R&I.

Finally, integrating RRI in educational curriculums will enable our future researchers and innovators to engage in a world where science has an increasing role and responsibility in social progress.

Do you think teaching RRI makes the relationship between science and society stronger? In your opinion, what other practices can reinforce this relationship?

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By Mia Jovanona