During the ETHNA System project, six organisations from four different RRI contexts piloted the Ethics Governance System implementation. Their experiences, the barriers they encountered and the lessons that were learned have now been consolidated into a report.  

Sofia-based ARC Fund comprised a report that presents the main findings and outcomes from the critical evaluation of the ETHNA System implementation process. Among the major barriers were an insufficient understanding of the RRI concept, a lack of resources and a lack of support from senior management. Other implementors reported that the methodology can be applied too rigidly and “to the letter”, leading to its perception as an imposition rather than a benefit. In other cases, there was a reluctance to implement changes and reforms in the organization, either in the management or the staff, or both. For each of the barriers, the report lists a number of measures that might be taken to reduce them.  

The lessons learned from the ETHNA System implementation process are just as varied. The report notes that it is vital to plan your objectives realistically and be aware of a potential gap between approval and engagement. Stakeholders may wholeheartedly support the objectives of the ETHNA System, but they might not line up to contribute to the implementation.

Most of all, Marko Hajdinjak, senior researcher at Arc Fund and author of the report, noted that, organisations wishing to implement an Ethics Governance System should remember that there is no one-size-fits all solution. “The ETHNA System can be an excellent source for ideas and inspiration, but each organisation should develop its own path towards the RRI-paved institutional change,” Hajdinjak stresses. “A small but sustainable change is better than an overambitious plan for change that never comes to fruition.“ 

Read report or watch this video on the implementation experience.

To truly develop and improve the ETHNA System it must be tested out in real life situations. Implement, test, refine…through an iterative process, the ETHNA Lab method is taking six organisations across Europe through an inclusive process of developing, testing, and refining the ETHNA System.

After months of development the ETHNA Lab method and training materials (Deliverable 5.3) have been released and are being put into practice. The deliverable includes a guide on the ETHNA Lab process, followed by reflections on the methodological development of the ETHNA Lab and its implementation.

“It has been an eye-opening experience to see how the ETHNA Lab process is bringing together stakeholders to co-create, experiment with, and evaluate the elements of the ETHNA System in vastly different contexts,” shared Sigrid Vedel Neuhaus from the Danish Board of Technology Foundation (DBT), the partner supporting the implementation process.

In the first step, Implementation Plans (Deliverable 5.1) have been created by the six implementing organisations. In addition, each organisation has created stakeholder engagement plans (Deliverable 5.2), providing insight into the plans for engaging Quadruple Helix stakeholders in the implementation, testing, and improvement of the ETHNA System. The engagement of Quadruple Helix stakeholders is key in the co-creative development process of the ETHNA System, ensuring its usefulness, relevance as well as is sensitivity to different social values and concerns. 

The ETHNA Lab process is currently running simultaneously in six different organisations from four different research and innovation contexts. Over the period from December 2021 to October 2022 the implementing organisations have adapted the ETHNA Lab process and the ETHNA System to fit their own, individual organisational reality.

Currently each of the organisations are facing different opportunities and challenges in their implementation of the ETHNA System. For example, in the context of a university, the Universitat Jaume I of Castellón (UJI) has led several critical external consultation workshops. UJI’s Dr. Ramón Feenstra has found that, “the implementation project has been a real challenge for the participants. Discovering the great plurality of disciplines and thinking is one of the highlights. You end up meeting a wide range of people – who said research ethics is boring!?” In the other university, the Norwegian University of Science and Technology (NTNU), where tools similar to those proposed by the ETHNA system are already in place, the RRI officer is exploring how successfully these instruments are integrated in the life of a department and how the ETHNA system could bring an added value.

The implementing institution, the Education and Youth Board (Harno), a government agency of the Ministry of Education and Research that deals with the implementation of Estonian education and youth policy, is moving smoothly in the process of developing ethical governance procedures. Multiple awareness raising events for internal target groups on ethics, gender, open access have been held and the appointed RRI Officer together with the working group meets regularly. The first brick in the ETHNA System set of building blocks was an in-depth treatment of the issue of gender diversity, as a result of which sections were prepared for the Code of Ethics and Good Practice. Thanks to this effort, Harno’s Gender Equality Plan for the period 2022-2027 was adopted.

At the Applied Research and Communications Fund (ARC Fund) the ETHNA System implementation is well on its way. An RRI-Officer and a working group has been formed to develop a Code of Ethics and Good Practices. The working group has conducted several interviews and are planning for a workshop with internal stakeholders as a part of developing the Code. After the finalisation of the Code, a Research Ethics Board will also be formed. Lastly, all staff members will participate in a series of trainings (research ethics; public engagement methods; gender equality and diversity issues in research; and training on open access).

Lastly, Espaitec, the Science and Technology Park at UJI, which works in the area of innovation is in the process of developing a Code of Ethics and Good Practices in terms of gender perspective. As Espaitec is not a research centre, a key challenge has been the lack of references of good practices in ecosystems such as theirs. “We have realised that there are many examples of responsible research, but not so much of innovation hubs. So, a main difficulty has been to identify good practices that can serve all the companies settled in the park, since they develop their activity in very diverse sectors such as energy and environment, ICT, health and biotechnology, among others,” noted Eva Pardo Gil from Espaitec.

Towards the end of the year, reports will be released analysing the ETHNA system implementation and collecting the difficulties found in the process.

Download the deliverable 5.1

Download the deliverable 5.2

Download the deliverable 5.3

All the deliverables of the ETHNA System project can be found here.

The deliverables have not yet been reviewed by the European Commission. Its content might therefore change as a result of the review process.


The ETHNA System project is starting off 2022 strong with the release of an updated version of the ETHNA System Concept to be used by the organisations that will pilot its implementation during the lifetime of the project. The Concept acts as a guide to ethical governance of RRI in research and innovation performing organisations (RPOs) and funding organisations (RFOs).

The Guide is the culmination of an extensive multi-stakeholder consultation process involving almost 900 external stakeholders from across the world to help revise and validate the first version of the ETHNA System concept. Key findings from the process pointed to the need to create a more adaptable system that addresses two dimensions essential to the institutionalisation of RRI: top-level leadership support and an existing support base. To successfully adapt to these different institutional characteristics, the ETHNA System foresees different models. Implementers can thus choose the level best suited to their internal structure. 

The release of the Guide serves as the basis for the next critical phase of the project – its implementation through Living Labs. The ETHNA System will be demonstrated and verified in four living lab contexts in higher education, research funding, innovation ecosystems, and research centres in 6 different organisations from Spain, Norway, Estonia, Portugal, Bulgaria. In the ETHNA Lab, participants will take part in a co-creation and experimentation process to de­mocratise and improve the elements of the ETHNA System.

Elsa González Esteban, project coordinator and professor of the Department of Philosophy and Sociology of the Universitat Jaume I de Castelló (UJI), states that “on the one hand, the Living Labs will help showcase that positive change is possible with dedicated and thoughtful co-creation with stakeholders. And on the other hand, a diverse stakeholder engagement process in the Living Labs will lead to the inclusion of representatives from each sector in innovation processes, creating results from which all involved stakeholders can benefit.” The outcomes will then feed into the final version of the ETHNA System.

Download the guide here

This deliverable has not yet been reviewed by the European Commission. Its content might therefore change as a result of the review process.


In traffic, doing housework or while working out: Podcasts can make time fly. Why not listen to a podcast on RRI? In the newest edition of the RRI Explained podcast, ETHNA System’s project coordinator Elsa González-Esteban talked about the project, its mission and what it takes to create an ethical governance system.  

The podcast “RRI Explained” was initiated by the EU project RESBIOS, which will instil robust ethical practices into four bioscience research institutes across Europe. The podcast comprises a series of interviews with experts in the field of ethics, RRI and biosciences. In its latest edition, RESBIOS communication officer Chris Styles spoke with Elsa about how the ETHNA System provides both a foundation and the flexibility needed to create bespoke ethical governance systems, across Higher Education, Funding and Research Centres, and how the other pillars of RRI inform governance. 

Go to the podcast

One tenet of responsible research and innovation is the need to benefit society. A guide developed by ETHNA System details how higher education, funding and research centres can monitor and respond to societal needs.  

According to the European Commission, RRI is “an ongoing process of aligning research and innovation with society’s values, needs and expectations”. When planning RRI activities, organisations thus need to ensure that they are responsive to society’s demands – and recognise the benefits of R&I that come with societal contributions, such as developing smart, inclusive, sustainable and new solutions to challenging issues and problems. To facilitate this process, ETHNA System has published “Gauging the potential societal contributions of research and innovation – a guide for HEFRCs”. It provides guidance on how organisations can identify societal needs and address them in RRI activities to meet today’s most pressing demands. 

Methodological examples show how Eurobarometer, research funding programmes and calls, as well as foresight exercises can be used to do this. “By focusing on three methods for monitoring societal values, needs and expectations, readers are introduced to affordable secondary research activities and foresight exercises that they can use in the R&I process,” explains author Lisa Häberlein from the European Network of Research Ethics Committees (EUREC). Insight is also provided on how deliberative stakeholder workshops can address society’s most pressing needs together with affected actors to engage in a multi-perspective discourse.

This document is the third guide in a three-part series to help higher education, funding and research centres map stakeholders and scope their involvement (D3.1), monitor and respond to their needs (D3.2) and engage them in participatory events (D3.3.)

Download the guide here

This deliverable has not yet been reviewed by the European Commission. Its content might therefore change as a result of the review process.

Engaging internal and external stakeholders plays an important role in all RRI activities. A guide on how to involve stakeholders in deliberative processes has now been developed in the ETHNA System project.
“Stakeholder involvement in ethical governance of R&I – A guide for HEFRCs” is the second of three guides being developed by project partner EUREC, the European Network of Research Ethics Committees. It provides institutions wishing to implement an ETHNA System with methodological guidance for participatory stakeholder engagement in R&I governance. The guide outlines a range of options and illustrative examples for conducting deliberative workshops with key actors, whether from research, innovation, and funding communities, business and industry, policy makers or civil society.
Lisa Häberlein, lead author of the guide, explains: “By considering stakeholder perspectives at an early stage, you can effectively identify, discuss, and incorporate societal values, needs and expectations into RRI activities. This guide will help you learn more about stakeholder deliberation methods and techniques to promote dialogical learning.”
Thus, the guide offers a flexible workshop design that can be adapted to the specific needs of the organisation and its structures. “Our goal was to create a guide that is broad enough to address your organisation’s situation and circumstances, but also universal enough to provide a common standard for deliberative activities in HEFRCs,” concludes Häberlein.

Download the guide here

This deliverable has not yet been reviewed by the European Commission. Its content might therefore change as a result of the review process.

One of the tenets of Responsible Research and Innovation is that of Open Access. We at ETHNA System are proud to share project results in the open access platform Zenodo.
It is essential to the ETHNA System Consortium that public deliverables are shared publicly and that our results are available to all.
That is why we have shared our results on the open science website Zenodo. Read up on our findings!
These are the three publications currently available:

All of our Open Access publications can be found here: https://ethnasystem.eu/open-access-results/

To define and measure society’s most pressing needs and demands, many research institutions want to place their stakeholders at the centre of research and innovation – but often they don’t know how. Now the ETHNA System project has finalised a guide on how Higher Education, Funding and Research Centres may develop stakeholder engagement strategies that support Responsible Research and Innovation.

The guide, “Mapping stakeholders and scoping involvement – A guide for HEFRCs”, is the first of three guidance documents to be published by project partner EUREC, the European Network of Research Ethics Committees. “The guide can serve as a concrete roadmap for engaging stakeholders from a wide range of societal groups who are willing to participate in a dialogue on ethical governance,” explains Lisa Häberlein, main author of the guide. “By using this guide, institutions can thus contribute to ensure that research is more responsive to society’s needs, values and expectations.”

The stakeholder mapping guide provides information for those who are new to the topic as well as for readers who want to build on already established structures for stakeholder engagement. The document includes a 6-step roadmap for identifying, analysing, mapping, prioritising, selecting and recruiting stakeholders, as well as templates making it easy to start engaging stakeholders right away.

Download the guide here 

This deliverable has not yet been reviewed by the European Commission. Its content might therefore change as a result of the review process.