Foundations in Responsible Research and Innovation

Information about the course objectives, learning and teaching activities and assessment.

This interdisciplinary course aims to equip students to address the social, legal and ethical issues surrounding research and innovation. It will introduce students to the body of scholarship arising from the new field of Science, Technology & Innovation Studies, particularly in relation to new and emerging science and technology (NEST). It will explore the concept of responsible research and innovation and how this may bear upon the roles of scientists and engineers in NEST projects including public engagement, risk and ethical audit, assessment of innovation trajectories and outcomes.

Outline syllabus

  1. Introduction: how and why the concept of Responsible Research and Innovation was proposed and the debates about how this may be achieved in research and development activities;
  2. Analysing processes of research and innovation; the role of scientists and engineers and a range of stakeholders including innovators, regulators and diverse publics; how these may vary between different technoscientific and application domains;
  3. Examining issues involved in the promotion and regulation of new and emerging science and technology; the emerging new risk governance framework including proposals for public engagement and ethical audit of research and engineering activities; attempts at anticipatory governance including 'Constructive Technology Assessment';
  4. Communicating these issues to external stakeholders;
  5. Applying these concepts to specific areas of contemporary research and innovation including big data and artificial intelligence and biomedical research and other fields of New and Emerging Science and Technology. Examining how these may inform choices in the student's own proposed research field.


Course assessment will comprise:

  1. Briefing for a public engagement exercise explaining a technoscientific project and its potential social and ethical dimensions (30%); (powerpoint presentation with presenter notes or script – 500 words max).
  2. Report mapping the potential implications and orientations of diverse stakeholders in relation to a selected research project (70%) (2000 words max).

Assessments will be returned with feedback and moderated within 15 working days of submission.

The seminar format will encourage peer-to-peer and teacher to peer feedback, contributing to formative assessment.

Learning Outcomes

On completion of this course, the student will be able to:

1.    Develop a critical understanding of the role of researchers in academia and society and what might be entailed by the practice of responsible research and innovation

2.    Engage critically with the work of Science and Technology Studies on research and innovation, their governance, and public engagement.

3.    Consider the potential orientation of a range of stakeholders (researchers, entrepreneurs, NGOs, regulators, diverse publics) in relation to the development and exploitation of research; consider their differing  orientations, assess competing claims and make informed judgments

4.    Develop their ability to present - in written and verbal form -- coherent, balanced arguments about the social and ethical dimensions of developments in science and engineering research and innovation.

5.    Use a range of research skills to plan and execute an original report reflecting on how scientists and engineers have responded to the challenges of being a responsible researcher.

See also: