On September 5 and 6, the Australian arm of the RRI-Practice project hosted a workshop to discuss the meaning of RRI in the Australian context. Throughout the two days up to 50 representatives engaged in lively discussion across the RRI keys and dimensions and their applicability, or not, to Australia. Those in attendance represented a range of roles including those responsible for funding research, research managers, research deliverers, those working in libraries and other support services essential for science delivery, not for profit organisations, PhD students and policy makers. There were also international representatives from the RRI-Practice project representing Germany, the Netherlands and Brazil.
In the keynote speech Queensland’s former Chief Scientist, Dr Christine Williams, opened the discussion by encouraging participants to consider issues relevant to governments in the RRI agenda. She cautioned:
Innovation is in danger of becoming an overused term here in Australia – emerging as if it were a whole new concept a matter of half a dozen years ago. Yet innovation has been at the heart of man’s development over the millennia. And I am sure that innovation in the past was received with the same mixture of feelings as it is today – it is perhaps one of the more divisive issues in society today.
Presentations focused on topics ranging from societal engagement, sustainability, open access, research funding and the impact agenda and implications for RRI. In many ways Australia appeared receptive to the concept of RRI. Opportunities identified included the potential for including RRI training in research higher degrees as well as for funding bodies to ensure the concept of responsibility was practice in research.
The concept of using RRI as a potential governance framework was also considered. However, there was reflection as to whether an RRI framework was required given that many elements of RRI are already present in Australia’s research landscape. A lack of time and resources, both for institutions and researchers, to implement RRI were recognised as potential barriers. However it was clear that the RRI-Practice workshop opened up new horizons of thinking about introducing a prospective notion of responsibility into the research landscape.