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:

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.

Castellón de la Plana, 12.07.2021 – How will the ETHNA Ethical Governance System be implemented within our pilot organisations? ETHNA researchers have drafted a guide that has the answers. 

Establishing ethical governance in RRI is not done overnight. It takes work and commitment – and a guidebook detailing the steps of the implementation process. UJI researchers have now published the draft version of this guide for implementing ETHNA System within our pilot organisations. The guide will eventually be targeted at any organisation that performs research and innovation or funds it and that aspires to have a more effective ethical commitment. Complementing the guide is an in-depth toolbox that will support implementors in installing a system of their own.

The Guide is divided in six sections and includes seven annexes that form a toolbox to implement the ETHNA System. Section A, B and C explain the importance of having a system of ethical governance, its target audience and the benefits resulting from public commitment to manage the ethical basis for trust. Section D explains the structure of the system which consists of a set of building blocks that are flexible and adaptable to the needs, idiosyncrasies, and resources of each organisation to progress in RRI over time. Section E describes how to implement the ETHNA System through three phases and seven steps. And finally, Section F dives into the importance of internal and external communication in the ETHNA System to create a RRI culture.

The document is enriched with a Toolbox that will help with the implementation of ETHNA System.

“The ETHNA System wants to be useful for each institution to build its own system of ethical governance of RRI based on continuous improvement in a flexible and adaptable way to its circumstances”, said Elsa Gonzáles-Esteban, ETHNA project coordinator. “In any case, the key to the successful implementation of the ETHNA System will reside in the shared construction, in the joint creation of the ethical governance structure.”

Although far advanced, the current guide is still in draft stage and will be finalised by year’s end.

The guide is available here.

The toolbox can be downloaded here.

Why strive for research and innovation in and for a good society? This was the critical topic at hand discussed by over 80 participants at the ETHNA System’s latest workshop on March 24th. Main findings from the ETHNA System on RRI state of the art, best practices, societal needs assessment, and stakeholder involvement were presented to the public for discussion.

Keynote speaker Rosina Malagrida (pictured), head of the Living Lab for Health at IrsiCaixa, kicked off the debate by highlighting the central questions (why, how and with whom) that must be investigated in order to transform R&I to make it more open and inclusive. Malagrida spoke to the urgency of connecting with societal needs and using a system thinking approach.

ETHNA project partners then presented their main findings thus far and engaged with participants to answer key questions on the design and implementation of an RRI governance system. Marit Hovdal Moan, Senior Researcher at the Norwegian University of Science and Technology, presented the report State of the Art and Best Practices and its conclusions. A central element underlying the discussion was the necessity of aligning both R&I with the needs and expectations of society at large as well as the importance of making R&I more anticipatory in order to avoid future harm. In both circumstances, there is a need to build structures that enable RRI practices and processes to come bottom-up (needs identified by meetings, surveys, interviews, hotlines, etc.), at all times informing the RRI solutions and structures that subsequently come top-down. And at the same time, bottom-up efforts must be anchored at the top to be effective.

Recommendations on societal needs and stakeholder involvement were then highlighted by Julia Maria Mönig from the European Network of Research Ethics Committees (EUREC) Office. The discussions with the workshop participants highlighted the importance of the ETHNA System and the relevance of its findings. Participants discussed how to combine excellence, responsibility, freedom of research and stakeholder inclusion, how HR policies can be a means to influence ethical governance, and differences in a top-down versus bottom-up approach to defining societal needs for ethical meta-governance of R&I. For example, while answering to societal needs is crucial for RRI, stakeholder inclusion should not jeopardise freedom of research or that the researchers’ reality has to be taken into account when preforming RRI and that one must be taught how to accomplish public engagement.

Join us in the ETHNA System workshop on RRI state of the art, best practices, societal needs assessment, and stakeholder involvement!

In this workshop, ETHNA project partners will present the main findings on these topics and point to crucial questions for the design and implementation of an RRI governance system.

Go to Workshop

Trondheim, 09.02.2021 – Scientists working under the umbrella of the EU project ETHNA System have identified a comprehensive overview of good governance practices towards responsible research and innovation (RRI) in Europe.

The partners of the EU project ETHNA System have presented a literature review and state of the art description mapping examples of good governance of research and innovation (R&I) in European Higher Education, Funding and Research Organisations. “The findings form an essential basis for advancing our goal of developing a governance structure characterised by transparency, participation and co-responsibility”, said Elsa González Esteban, project coordinator and professor of the Department of Philosophy and Sociology of the Universitat Jaume I de Castelló (UJI).

The 82-page “Report on the state of the art and best practices” is the first publication of the project consortium involving ten partners from eight countries. Researchers at the ETHNA System partner institution Norwegian University of Science and Technology are the main contributors, in collaboration with project partners at UJI and Fundación Española para la Ciencia y Tecnología.

The report provides a comprehensive overview of governance theory and practices in the R&I sector related to the concept of Responsible Research and Innovation (RRI). The report is based on findings from a review of the RRI literature, with a particular focus on the governance of research and innovation processes, a mapping of good governance practices in the research and innovation sector related to RRI in Europe, and interviews with 22 European-based experts on R&I governance in the area of RRI, or RRI-related topics. The purpose of the report has been to present some of the governance options – or building blocks – available when constructing the ETHNA system, both conceptually and practically speaking.

The selection of examples of governance practices in the R&I sector related to RRI has been guided by Arie Rip’s conception of de facto governance, which proposes that governance is constituted to a large degree “by bottom-up actions, strategies and interactions … [that] add up to outcomes at the collective level which function as governance arrangements”.

Following this approach, the consortium identified a broad variety of governance practices.

Applying the governance framework of the EC-funded project Res-A-Gora, the authors organised identified cases under the following three governance themes: ensuring quality of interaction, positioning and orchestration, and developing supportive environments.

Each of the governance themes are divided into three parts, which are referred to in the report as governance modules. The concept of governance modules was chosen to emphasise the idea that the governance themes can be understood as building blocks, which one can pick and choose from when constructing the ETHNA governance system. The cases organised under each module are meant to serve as an inspiration when reflecting on how a module could be adapted to a given institutional context.

The report does not indicate which of the selected cases qualify as good governance practices for the purpose of constructing the ETHNA system. However, the authors suggest that a selection of relevant practices could be guided by the overarching quality criteria for good governance in the R&I sector that underpin the ETHNA System project, which are those of ethical and effective.

Informed by Habermas’ theory of communicative action, an ethical governance system is defined here as one that promotes and facilitates on the one hand  the inclusion of those immediately affected by it (i.e. R&I actors) in processes of discursive justification of the way in which the governance system is organised, and  second, the inclusion of stakeholders (citizens, end-users, non-governmental organisations, business representatives, policy makers) in processes of critical examination and discursive justification of possible scenarios and potential impacts generated by research and innovation processes.

In addition to being ethical, the ETHNA System project holds that to qualify as good an R&I governance structure must also be effective. Informed by governance theory on public innovation, an effective governance structure in this context refers to one that accommodates and facilitates the form that R&I activities often take, namely the form of diverse, complex and dynamic networks.

The report is part of the project’s work package 2. Needs assessment, planning and implementation of ETHNA System are the upcoming tasks that will be realised in the next two years.

Download the report

Image copyright: Skylark1952 – / BIOCOM