On 19th and 20th October 2016, the new research platform “Responsible Research and Innovation in Academic Practice” at the University of Vienna (Austria) had its kick-off meeting. The event started with an inspiring evening with presentations on the research agenda, aims and future activities of the platform as well as short talks on RRI in the university context. On the second day, the platform invited to lectures, debates, and workshops on “Metrics, Values and Evaluation in Academic Practice”.

About the Research Platform

At the University of Vienna, currently 19 research platforms on a variety of interdisciplinary questions and topics exist. These research platforms are considered as tools for fostering interdisciplinary research; consequently, a precondition for founding such a platform is a collaboration of research groups and academics of different disciplines and institutes. The research platform “Responsible Research and Innovation in Academic Practice” wants to enable such interdisciplinary work by bridging social sciences and life sciences – its current members come from fields such as Science and Technology Studies, Molecular Biology, or Ecology. In this close collaboration, the platform aims to investigate the conditions for responsibility in particularly the academic research context. In addition, it aims to facilitate debates with different research groups, it will regularly organise workshops with life science researchers, and plans to bring RRI into teaching and learning settings on a Master’s and PhD level.

Kick-off and First Workshop

The first day of the two-day launch event started with official welcome addresses by the rector of the University of Vienna, Heinz Engl, and the president of the Austrian Science Fund (FWF), Klement Trockner. Ulrike Felt, Professor of Science and Technology Studies and head of the research platform, then turned to a presentation on the platform’s research agenda and aims, followed by a talk by James Wilsdon (Professor of Research Policy and Director of Impact and Engagement, University of Sheffield, UK) on “The Responsible University: Embedding RRI in Research Cultures, Policies and Practices”.

The theme of the second day was “Metrics, Values and Evaluation in Academic Practice”: in three lecture notes, Sarah de Rijcke (Associate Professor and Deputy Director at the Centre for Science and Technology Studies, Leiden University, NL), James Wilsdon, and Ulrike Felt elaborated on the role of indicators, metrics in research assessment, evaluations as well as on the role of time in academic practice and how responsibility, respectively RRI, can be embedded in current research settings. The lecture notes were followed by subsequent inputs by discussants from life sciences and general open plenary debates.

The second part of the day was devoted to three parallel workshops led by the three speakers of the morning lecture notes: Sarah de Rijcke focused on “Living and Working with Indicators”, while James Wilsdon asked the question “What do we Value and (E)valuate in Research?”, and Ulrike Felt invited to a workshop on “Making Time for Responsible Research”.

Through its focus on metrics, values, and evaluation, the kick-off lectures and workshops of the newly-established research platform opened up interesting debates on how responsibility – as well as RRI – could be integrated into current academic research practices, which are often aligned to the strive for satisfying scientific excellence. After the two-day event, participants left with new insights and food for thought – which might be further discussed at the research platform’s next workshop on 11th May 2017.

More information:

Text by Marlene Altenhofer, HEIRRI project participant from the Institute for Advanced Studies.
Picture credits: Jasmin Engelhart (provided by: Research Platform Responsible Research and Innovation in Academic Practice, University of Vienna)