Responsibility and Freedom - Robert Gianni - E-Book

Responsibility and Freedom E-Book

Robert Gianni

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Responsible Research and Innovation appears as a paradoxical frame, hard to conceptualize and difficult to apply. If on the one hand research and innovation appear to follow logics blind to societal issues, responsibility is still a blurred concept interpreted according to circumstances. Different perspectives are implied in the RRI discourse rendering difficult also its application, because each social dimension proposes a different path for its implementation. This book will try to indicate how such conflictual understanding of RRI is caused by a reductive interpretation of ethics and, consequently, of responsibility. The resulting framework will represent an ethical approach to RRI that could help in overcoming conflictual perspectives and construct a multi-layer approach to research and innovation.

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Table of Contents








1 Responsible Research and Innovation: a New Framework for an Old Controversy

2 Responsibility: a Modern Concept

2.1. The modern formation of responsibility

2.2. Decoupling law and morality

2.3. The political implications of responsibility

2.4. Responsibility as an overarching concept

3 Development of Freedom

3.1. The centrality of freedom

3.2. Legal freedom

3.3. Moral freedom

3.4. Ethical freedom

4 An Ethical Perspective on Responsibility and Freedom

4.1. Ethics and morality

4.2. Responsibility and freedom: an ethical relation

5 Framework for the Ethical Assessment of RRI

5.1. Historical overcoming of RRI




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I dedicate this book to the woman who taught me the hardness but also the beauty of responsibility and freedom.My greatest love.To Carole.

Responsibility and Freedom

The Ethical Realm of RRI

Volume 2

Robert Gianni

Responsible Research and Innovation Set

coordinated byBernard Reber

First published 2016 in Great Britain and the United States by ISTE Ltd and John Wiley & Sons, Inc.

Apart from any fair dealing for the purposes of research or private study, or criticism or review, as permitted under the Copyright, Designs and Patents Act 1988, this publication may only be reproduced, stored or transmitted, in any form or by any means, with the prior permission in writing of the publishers, or in the case of reprographic reproduction in accordance with the terms and licenses issued by the CLA. Enquiries concerning reproduction outside these terms should be sent to the publishers at the undermentioned address:


27-37 St George’s Road

London SW19 4EU


John Wiley & Sons, Inc.

111 River Street

Hoboken, NJ 07030


© ISTE Ltd 2016

The rights of Robert Gianni to be identified as the author of this work have been asserted by him in accordance with the Copyright, Designs and Patents Act 1988.

Library of Congress Control Number: 2015959668

British Library Cataloguing-in-Publication Data

A CIP record for this book is available from the British Library

ISBN 978-1-84821-897-0


This book is the outcome of work that has developed along two directors, which cannot always be clearly distinguished.

On the one hand, my understanding of society comes from my studies at the Frankfurt School concerning a Hegelian perspective on social dynamics, and, on the other hand, from the daily work of comprehension and development of approaches that can help in solving the controversy between science and society. The result is thus contained in a text where many have contributed, although often implicitly. Consequently, given the great number of contributors forming this text, my appreciation will surely be incomplete in terms of names.

Timothy Shrubsall has played a key role in the semantic and syntactic development of the text given the objective difficulty in expressing the nuances embedded in several terms and concepts. All mistakes or strange expressions are due to my stubbornness in trying to keep certain terms and expressions.

From a conceptual point of view, I am grateful to Axel Honneth, Roberto Finelli, Giacomo Marramao, René Von Schomberg, Xavier Pavie, Vincent Blok, Ibo Van de Poel, Armin Grunwald, Klaus Jacob and Jeroen van Den Hoven.

A special thank you in this sense goes to Bernard Reber who helped me both from a conceptual and a human point of view. Although I am sure that he will not agree with all the interpretations provided in this text, most of those are the outcomes of discussions and suggestions to which he has always generously contributed.

John Pearson and Philippe Goujon have contributed in different ways enabling me not to lose sight of the importance of publishing this work and taught me much more than they can imagine.

Veikko Ikonen, Jérémy Grosman and Alain Loute have also been great sources of inspiration and discussion for the understanding of science and society.

A special thanks goes to Laura Oger and Christelle Saout Babette Di Guardia for their presence and constant help. I cannot forget the institutional support that I have received from Naji Habra, Laurent Schumacher, Laurence Hennuy, Claire Lobet, Isabelle Daelman and Benjamin Lurquin.

I would like to also thank the European Commission via Karen Fabbri, Giuseppe Borsalino and Isidoros Karatzas with whom I share a special passion for ethics.

Nicolas Gonne has managed to alleviate the difficulties and acerbities that such work entails and showed me new crossroads between economy and society.

Among the friends who were eager to listen and help me, I cannot forget Francesco Domenici, Takis Tzevelecos, Alexandre Girard and Olivier Hubert.

Finally, this book would not have been possible without the care, cultural help and loving support of my companion Christina.


This second volume of the Responsible Innovation and Research (RRI) set has been written by a philosopher who is an expert in the emergent field of research around this notion. He is involved in different European projects like, for instance, Governance for Responsible Research and Innovation (GREAT)1. This book does much more than just present RRI practices or how to make a framework operational. In addition to these important aspects, Robert Gianni also proposes here an analysis of the philosophical roots embedded in the notion. This is a crucial point, which will be addressed, although through different perspectives, throughout the set.

Gianni offers a very structured and relevant understanding of RRI in order to develop an efficient and concretely ethical conception. According to his perspective, freedom is the main condition of possibility at the basis of any responsibility. This should be obvious, but most of the RRI discourses or research take this point either as guaranteed, or tend to stick to a legal framework. Indeed, Robert Gianni believes that the reason for which science and innovation have undergone a general mistrust is because they have been sometimes perceived as a threat to one’s freedom. Thus, according to the author, the different protests and the reasons supporting them referred, either explicitly or implicitly, to the necessity of guaranteeing freedom of individuals. He takes as an anchor point for the regulation of the science and society relationship the fact that every adoptable measure should be based according to the guarantee or development of freedom.

By the adoption of several examples, he emphasizes that the use of persuasive European Union strategies cannot be sufficient in terms of legitimacy and efficacy, as a measure to implement research and innovation. If the EU needs to increase its efficacy in order to develop our economies, it must also guarantee the legitimacy in the way these domains are steered in respect to society, its needs, values and norms. For this purpose, the objective of the EU should and is, according to Gianni, exactly the one of covering the distance between science and society, caused by a qualitative growth of technologies and by the adoption of processes that had for a long time excluded society and its request of freedom. What he emphasizes with respect to the strategy of European research and innovation can be true for every country with a strong development of research and innovation.

Gianni offers an original interpretation of the EC guidelines and a critical reading of RRI made by the scientific community. By doing so, he considers both sides, the practical application of the European Commission’s RRI guidelines, i.e. the six keys (participation of stakeholders, open science, science literacy, gender, governance and ethics), and some of the most important theoretical proposals regarding RRI research on the dimensions of responsibility. RRI can be achieved if the six key actions are adopted as an action list. According to him, in fact, these keys proposed by the European Commission should not be seen as static but rather as performative and dynamic. They are key actions, or manners of embedding research and innovation, rather than dimensions. In this way, the distance between RRI conceptions and the keys will be covered and the latter will represent the operational tools to achieve the former.

Contrary to most interpretations, which reduce to participation of stakeholders (first key) the fulfilling of responsible practices, he places “ethical governance” (a mixture between fifth and sixth keys) as the overarching device that considers all these perspectives, objectified in common institutions. “Ethical governance” comprises the aim of reaching a reflexive equilibrium between legitimacy and efficacy for the sake of freedom. This “ethical governance” assumes a complementary perspective on social dynamics, developing through learning ability and adaptability between different social dimensions.

This claim has some echo in the previous book of the series, Ethical Efficiency [LEN 16]. Its author, Cristian Virgil Lenoir, makes a plea for sincere attention to the relationships between the various efficiency logics, which either concern economy or science or politics. For him, ethics may influence the development of efficiency logics if they are continually fueled by what is referred to as “ethical innervation”, a term he borrowed from Chinese philosophy. But C.V. Lenoir has carefully discussed in his book the contribution of Hegel too. This difficult but powerful philosopher has also found an important place in this book although used from another perspective. The core notion in C.V. Lenoir was contingence and the need for it. Here, Robert Gianni insists on the importance of freedom as an institutional device. It has a double nature. On the one hand, it is a transcendental reference to which none of us would want to renounce, and, on the other hand, freedom cannot be determined in an objective way. The contents of freedom cannot be predetermined because they will always be immanent, echoing C.V. Lenoir.

Robert Gianni’s proposal to articulate freedom and responsibility has many aspects. It is not an obstacle for research, where researchers often given an additional importance to their work. Research needs to be honest for the sake of freedom of research itself and has to develop novelties that by definition cannot be completely foreseen, even with programmes and contracts. Freedom cannot be predetermined in its contents and articulation. Accordingly, freedom always finds new ways of expressing itself. For this reason, the role of responsibility is to preserve the possibility of freedom, to guarantee the possibility for freedom to find innovative ways to actualize itself (preservation and implementation).

We can make a link between freedom and responsibility and give the general orientation of his book:

“Being responsible means responding to the guaranteed freedoms as a recognized moral agent of a society, having the aim of preserving such freedoms and at the same time implementing them through institutional arrangements”.

In the first book of the series, C.V. Lenoir was discussing the relationships between economy and ethics. Here, Robert Gianni lends an important part to the legal sphere. The distinction and the articulation between moral, ethics, politics and law are as difficult as they are crucial in the RRI debates and more generally around responsibility. He rightly reads, discusses and reintroduces into the RRI debate the proposals of Kant, Hegel, Kelsen and Hart, among others. We are very far from a restricted analytical and contemporary approach.

His first chapter shows us how RRI is a new framework for an old controversy. Having presented the different conceptions of the main contributors to this debate, such as Von Schomberg, Van den Hoven and Armin Grunwald, who will contribute to another volume of this set, Gianni describes a kind of genealogy of the concept of responsibility, starting from theology and law. For this purpose, he follows Paul Ricoeur’s works on this question and introduces him in actual RRI research, which unfortunately, only seldom quotes the very creative French philosopher, namely in the field of interpretation. It is the case of the contemporary debate in moral and political philosophy too. Ricoeur has offered a deep analysis of the conceptual and etymological origins of responsibility in relation to the emergence and implementation of the concept of freedom. In its fragmented origins, responsibility can be understood as following two main veins, which have contributed to produce a polysemic concept, although it is still ambiguous today. On the one hand, we have the philosophical legacy, articulated by Kant in the first Critique [KAN 98], determining the epistemic and ontologic importance of the ascription of an act to the agent, and, on the other hand, we encounter a moral– juridical tradition, which overlaps with Kant’s indications in the second Critique [KAN 97] where he defines the criteria for the moral and legal accountability of a person.

Another important philosopher, Axel Honneth, with his stunningly and ambitious exploration [HON 14a], is used here to make a very original contribution to RRI. In this book, Honneth analyzes the difference between the right, the possibility, the reality of freedom, through legal freedom, moral freedom and social freedom. Freedom strives to achieve a twofold objective: legitimacy and efficacy. Its peculiarity is that it changes the understanding of the relation between them. The possibility of achieving this dual objective is embedded in the absolutely unique nature of the concept of freedom that has a conservative and innovative aspect, which are inseparable and are continually interchanged so as to make it difficult to identify the characteristic features of one or the other, as they are placed in a framework, which contains them but at the same time exceeds them. Here, Gianni speaks of an ethical framework. This ethical (or social, as Honneth would so) freedom comprises individual freedoms within institutions by means of objective perspectives. Freedom finds its alter ego precisely in responsibility as a pondered equilibrium of its various conceptions by means of institutional mechanisms. To be efficacious, a norm beside its purely formal validity must also be the fruit of individual determination.

One of the strongest and most original contributions to the construction of RRI can be detected in the following: all conceptions of responsibility must be kept together in one conceptual framework. In this way, we have a concept that can contain, on the one hand the accountability for a commitment taken with regard to a community in which we are recognized, but, on the other hand, a concept that is also able to go beyond, due to the commitment toward an undetermined future.

At least three important steps are presented in his demonstration.

The first one, still topical, can be found in the Hegelian critics of a Kantian approach that does not take into account the efficacy and the application of a norm that he refers to. According to Hegel, Kant does not consider as necessary these substantive and institutional aspects apart from a reduced legal one. For Kant, the necessity lies only at the level of the procedures through which we achieve the legitimacy of those aspects. Kant’s proceduralist approach supposes all imaginable aims and intentions as long as they meet the conditions of moral reflexivity. According to Hegel, we cannot limit our comprehension to one type of freedom that is exclusively epistemic, reflective or moral, because otherwise there would not be the conditions of possibility of that freedom. In Hegel’s philosophy, ethics is the dialectic of subjective impulse and objective reality into an institutional dimension that promotes his peculiarity. Following Honneth, famous for his use of Hegelian recognition theory to go beyond the Habermasian proceduralism, Gianni shows the importance of subjectivity as well as the media as tools for intersubjective recognition. RRI may fulfill these tasks, performing a real ethical role.

Giving life to Fichte’s intuitions, Hegel realizes the figure of a historically situated subject, which relates with other subjects by means of media based on recognition. With that, he manages to detranscendentalize Kantian subjects through the fulfilling of the three basic features of modernity: (1) the origin of our knowledge is historical (worldviews, mentalities and traditions, values, norms and institutions and social practices). The symbolic dimension enables the communication between different historical contexts as well as different social spheres; (2) the production of media (language for instance) as independent function structures the relation between subject and object before they meet. Innovations are always developing their semantic; (3) individual contribution is not solipsistic but interwoven in social textures based on recognition.

The second step relies on the work of the French philosopher François Ewald, who has played an important role in the debate on the welfare state and the precautionary principle. He has emphasized the relations among politics, morality and institutional mechanisms. He has shown through the development of liberal thought the relationships and the contradictions emerging in the interrelation between morality and law. Indeed, these two dimensions are mingled with the political sphere in the application of the dominant ideology at a certain time. To keep responsibility detached from concrete institutional devices produces a rhetorical use that could lead the concept of responsibility to function only as a tool of ideological legitimization. However, Gianni departs from Ewald by stating that responsibility must be abandoned because by concept it is an expression of a biased perspective. According to Gianni, Ewald reduces the concept himself for one of his applications. If there is a high risk of instrumentalization of such a broad concept, we can emphasize the partiality of an application as an expression of political inadequacy. This could help to partly highlight the logical and ethical limits in which responsibility might incur.

The third step also arises from Hegel and his indication of finding equilibrium among different dimensions, which are rational (universal) and historical (contingent). The reflective equilibrium between these two sides will enable us to detect the contents that the institutions must embody, according to the social sphere in which they are inserted and the role for which they exist. Such “normative reconstruction” will lead us to the diagnostic possibility of practices that we would define responsible or otherwise. This is an operation that passes between a philosophical side and a sociological side, to trace these contents and their institutionalization. Society and the freedom it offers is no longer either an objective to achieve or a possibility, but rather the necessity for the implementation of freedom itself. In this sense, institutions must strive to promote and preserve that “pondered equilibrium”. Juridical, moral or existential dimensions, according to which responsibility can be interpreted, must interact within society according to the objective of a pondered equilibrium. This weighting, a judgment that takes its contents from immanent issues, becomes necessary in order to adapt to the specific context the related most important conception of responsibility, or the most necessary social sphere in question.

This three-step demonstration offers a great contribution in the debates on ethics in context, and more largely, the relationships between philosophy and social sciences.

Gianni’s ethical framework of RRI integrates responsibility with its several layers and different depths. He does not want to isolate them in a theoretical exercise, so as to understand or define their traits. This kind of operation, although useful to understand the concept, underestimates the necessity to insert the different acceptions in a wider proposition in order to apply it in a practical domain. Instead of dividing spheres of responsibility, he thinks that we have to understand how they are all part of one wider conception. The polysemy that characterizes responsibility offers a range of conceptions that respond to the different articulations of freedom. His thesis is based on two assumptions: (1) the various conceptions of responsibility emerge where we find a freedom. The relations among the different conceptions are not linear as well as the relation between each conception and responsibility as such; (2) freedom has to be actualized in a plural form, in an ethical sense.

According to the author, we need to then develop the meshes as a place to put all the different acceptions of responsibility in a specular relation with freedom.

His conceptual proposition is very valuable in the field of institutional design, often far from Hegelian philosophy. It is of great interest for matching moral and political pluralism.

The knowledge of the field of research of RRI, as well as the careful reading of main authors of the Western philosophical tradition among moral, ethical, legal, political freedom and responsibility, together with their translation toward these new crosscutting requisites, makes this book very promising. Indeed, it already announces further debates for the coming volume.

Bernard REBERDecember 2015





L’ethique […] demeure problématique, c’est-à-dire fait problème qui donne à penser.

(Ethics […] remains problematic, i.e. a problem which needs to be thought about)

Kostas Axelos

Responsible Research and Innovation (RRI) is a notion that can represent a great opportunity for the future of Europe, because it is meant to merge technical and economic imperatives with societal needs and desires. The aim is to generate not only an institutional framework, but also a proliferation of regulated practices to increment European well-being. However, it is still unclear how to understand this task given the multiple conceptual perspectives and several practical obstacles that such a wide notion implies.

If, on the one hand, responsibility is an ambiguous term, paving the way to different and sometimes conflicting interpretations, on the other hand, research and innovation appear to be imperatives that could be committed only to technical regulations and need as much freedom as possible. Accordingly, RRI appears as a container embedding conflicting perspectives for which the solution is at least puzzling.

If it is difficult to provide an objective and shared understanding of what RRI should be, its prescriptive side. It is possible, however, to describe RRI as the tool through which the political rationality of our time is exemplified and developed, and therefore what it is supposed to be.

However, this last statement is also far from being clear in its features.

At the heart of the notion of RRI lies the more radical problem of the relation between science and society. Far from being a new issue, this conflict has been ongoing for the last few decades in different shapes and forms.

Among the different problems that this relation has produced, we can define at least two disciplinary areas that have tried to solve them according to specific logics. Nevertheless, their common methodology is to refer to an external “tool” in order to regulate the “debate”.

A first dimension can be detected in the epistemic trust that scientific knowledge is neutral and objective. According to this perspective, the problems arising from research and innovation are due to some form of ignorance that can be easily overcome by means of scientific education. The consequences of an innovation or, in general, of research can be defined in advance if a valid methodology is adopted. Besides, all concerns about safety, in a broad sense, will be protected by laws and regulations, which all scientists and entrepreneurs must follow.

However, this perspective does not appear to be able to solve what have been call epistemic conflicts [VON 93]. Scientific points of view regarding the future outcomes of a technology have proven to be conflicting, generating an epistemic tangle from which we cannot get out via epistemic means. Moreover, technologies, and especially innovations, have a strong societal target, meaning that they will be applied or used in a context that is not limited to a research laboratory. Thus, science “objectivity” could be used by policy-makers, or specific subjects, as a justification for personal reasons [VON 93, PES 03].

A second approach in trying to solve the problem stands on a moral level. In fact, here the solutions proposed follow not a scientific path but a moral one. If research and innovation have a societal impact and, if epistemically speaking, we cannot reach a shared perspective, then we need to find other ways of assessing potential outcomes. Here, the proposed solution is to assume a moral perspective that could drive the process in deciding what is good and what is bad. However, this approach generates two kinds of problems. The first one is that moral perspectives are not singular, and most of the time not even stable regarding science in its general sense. Morality, although it could have the same syntactic sense, finds several different semantic understandings. The plurality of perspectives generates moral clashes that are even stronger than the epistemic ones. Thus, the criterion according to which decision should be taken needs to be found in an external reference on which all the subjects concerned could possibly agree. Such a criterion are often identified in the recourse to reason and the establishment of a corresponding procedure. If concerned agents deliberate and decide according to a set of rules defined by a rational morality, then the result should be a stable and shared one. There are several variations of an approach that basically rely on Kant’s Critique of Practical Reason [KAN 97]. This strategy has the great merit of looking for an external reference in order to reach an agreement on problematic issues. However, this perspective has turned out not to be necessarily successful. The second problem in fact, generated at a moral level, is that if it is adopted as a purely rational procedure for solving issues, we might reach a justification but we could be missing the actual “agreement” by all agents. The reference to reason prescinds from subjective perspectives exactly by taking into account the objective side of subjectivity. In other words, reason is assumed to have this double nature of being present in every agent but not based on specific and relative aspects. In this way, the debate shifts to a purely objective side. However, this necessary “blindness” to aspects “other” than reason could generate a personal detachment from the results of what reason has established. Research and innovation amplify this possibility because their outcomes could provoke a strong impact on people’s lives. As shown by Gunther [GUN 98], Ferry [FER 02] and many others, there is an enormous distance between the justification of a norm and its application. The advantage of a morally rational perspective, like the one embedded in discourse theory [HAB 98], is to abstract from irrational and unjustifiable contributions to the decision-making process. However, this abstractness also represents its deepest limit.

These kinds of approaches have the great merit of taking into account a transcendental reference that could serve as a tool for generating concerted norms and rules. The mistake lies, according to my perspective, in appointing an ontological primacy to this transcendental reference, which it cannot assume in reality. In other words, reason can and should be used as a tool for resolving social issues, but when it is assumed to be also the actual basin where all values, desires and interests should be comprised. We then assist to a sort of short circuit. The fact that agents should follow reasonable ways for fulfilling their life expectations does not mean that their lives are exhausted by reason. The logical mistake is generated by the fact that reason is made the only reference for achieving goals and objectives. To put it in another way, if reason is conceived as our aim, and not just as a tool by which we can define our aims, all what falls out of reason cannot be accepted [FER 02, WILa 84, LEN 03, HON 91, HON 14a].

However, if the recourse to reason generates several theoretical and practical difficulties, there is still the need to find an external reference on which to base debates. If reason as a transcendental value should be rejected, we should not throw the baby out with the bath water. If reason cannot be itself the aim of a debate, it can and must be the tool by which to generate one’s aims, desires and preferences in order to overcome social clashes.

Nevertheless, we are still left with the question of the reference by which we can hope to develop a common solution to plural perspectives.

I believe that the reason for which science, and R&I in our update language, has started to undergo a general mistrust by the general public is because at a certain point it has been perceived and understood as a threat to one’s freedom. I believe that all the different protests as well as the reasons provided for assuming a position in those debates were all referring, implicitly or explicitly, to the necessity of guaranteeing freedom to individuals.

I believe this to be true on two different, but related, levels.

A first level is the fact that potential negative outcomes could endanger people’s lives or the way they would eventually decide how to live their lives. If the first set of issues is detectable in all those consequences connected to health or security areas, the second one is identifiable with products or processes that will predefine how people are going to manage their private relations. In this second sense, we can easily find in privacy issues or, for instance, two of the most controversial aspects.

However a second level refers to a perceived threat on one’s freedom and concerns the way in which “governance” measures are put in place in order to decide about people’s freedom. At this stage, the opposition raises questions with regard to the liberty that agents are given to decide about their future. In other words, the decisions regarding what is going to implement people’s life are made without taking into account people themselves.

These two levels are so strictly connected that, according to my perspective, they have caused, and still do today, a general concern with regard to research and innovation.

This perspective could also be seen as valid, if we consider again the reference to reason that I have made above. It is not sufficient that certain products or processes are rationally justified in order for them to be accepted, because they could still represent a menace to freedom and affect fundamental aspects of people’s lives, such as their values, desires, interests, etc.

This strong reference to freedom makes us able to replace the ontological primacy assigned to reason by a Kantian legacy with freedom. I believe that the aim and the criterion by which we can judge the goodness of a product or a process can be identified with freedom. Freedom can play this role given its double nature. On the one hand, it is a transcendental reference to which none of us would want to renounce (logically speaking, renouncing to it already implies a free choice). On the other hand, however, the articulation and contents that identify such freedom cannot be determined in an objective way. Apart from the necessary conditions of possibility, that is the possibility itself of being free and at a more radical way, the necessity to exist, all the contents can be determined only at an individual and immanent way. Thus, we can understand this double nature and the fundamental role it plays in our lives. This is a concept that is transcendental in its necessity but contingent in its way of being articulated.

In order to take a path that can lead us out of this thorny scenario, we need to rely on the importance that freedom has in this matter. Therefore, the hypothesis that I take as the anchor point for developing an assessment of science with regard to society is based on the fact that every measure that can be adopted in order to regulate this relation should be based on freedom.

As the problems are identifiable on two levels, the potential solutions also have to develop according to this double layer. On the one hand, the development of products and processes needs to be done with the aim of guaranteeing the basic conditions of freedom, that is the possibility of existence. Furthermore, these goods should try to be conceived as a way to implement the articulations of freedom, either in a quantitative or qualitative way. On the other hand, the decisions on what products or processes could serve the purpose should not be taken without taking into concrete consideration what the people concerned think about it.

The new framework of RRI is based on two main factors, as we have seen. In fact, it tries to respond to the necessity to foster research and innovation, but to do so in a responsible way. The paradox that seems to be embedded in this framework can be easily overcome if we think of it in terms of freedom.

On the side of research and innovation, what is required is freedom to promote specific investigations. Research needs to be left free for the sake of the freedom of research itself. Researchers want to develop novelties that by definition cannot be foreseen. Innovations, which are market-directed [SCH 34a], focus on the possibility of increasing other aspects of freedom, like with material needs. Although the kind of freedom involved might differ in the case of research or innovation, the common reference to it cannot be denied.

The same can be said for responsibility. It involves different acceptions but the common reference to all its acceptions is always the presupposition of correspondent freedom [VIN 12]. Liability is based on a negative understanding of freedom, as well as care, which involves a more existential attitude to existence. However, even if we could detect different understandings of what it means with regard to responsibility, freedom is always the aim and main reference for every responsibility.

Furthermore, responsibility is the response we give to a freedom that we need to guarantee.

As we have already mentioned, the question of freedom falls between two levels, and the same goes for responsibility.

If it is true that we need to respond to the freedom of someone or something, it is also true that this is possible only on the basis of the freedom we must depart from. In other words, the duty entailed by responsibility can be taken in charge and fulfilled only if we are free to choose otherwise. It would not make sense, even at a strictly juridical level, to charge an un-free being of a responsibility [HAR 08].

Accordingly, we need to make sure that agents contributing to the development of research and innovation are free, so to be able to act responsibly. However, this could be ensured only at an institutional level. When it comes to research and innovation, we cannot pretend that freedom and responsibility can be left to individuals. Although the individual contribution is crucial to achieve responsible practices of research and innovation, this effort can be made only according to institutional conditions that enable and allow an agent to choose. Surely, this refers to more direct measures, such as funding possibilities of regulatory frames, but it also concerns all those pedagogical and facilitating functions that an institution should entail.

On the one hand, we have the educational role performed in order to make agents able to learn from and with each other. On the other hand, we have the facilitation of stable practices of confrontation among agents in order to develop a reciprocal awareness of each other’s freedoms. This would also generate a side-effect that unveils the necessary relational and complementary nature of our European societies.

Although different social spheres speak different languages, they all depend on each other and they all share the same fundamental value of freedom. Accordingly, their aim, being a common one, should be unveiled through a constant dialectical relation in order to reciprocally tune their languages.

This institutional dimension is then fundamental if we want to develop responsible forms of research and innovation in an ethical sense. In fact, the way to avoid that responsibility, reduced to a rhetorical discourse in order to legitimize a specific unethical political rationality [EWA 86], is to ground it to a complementary perspective within an institutional context. Only in this way can we protect responsibility and the freedom connected from manipulation or distortions.

I believe that RRI embeds all these aspects and is a framework based on a concrete awareness of it ethical needs. RRI is an ethical framework based on the need to respond to the freedom that calls us from the future but that requires a common effort toward it that we should make today.

We cannot predict what it will mean to be free in the future. We do know that for that freedom to be possible, we must ensure certain basic conditions. However, the articulations of those freedoms and our responsibilities can only be established within a historically determined context, and our task is to be able to respond to all the new freedoms and to the very possibility for freedom itself, that is to respond to its nature, to be free.

As brilliantly defined by Owen et al., responsibility, and therefore freedom, will have to detect and shape according to societal developments: “Responsibility is a social ascription that has changed and evolved over time, in part reflecting the changing nature and norms of society. What we […] argue is that how we think about responsibility in the context of science and innovation now needs to change again, reflecting the modern context in which innovation occurs. This requires a redrawing of the contours of responsibility, including, but going beyond evidence-based regulation and established codes of responsible conduct in science” [OWE 13, p. 30].

The research leading to these results has received funding from the European Community’s Seventh Framework Programme FP7/2007-2013 under grant agreement no. 321488 (Project FP7-SCIENCE-IN-SOCIETY-2012-1, Governance of Responsible innovATion, GREAT).

1Responsible Research and Innovation: a New Framework for an Old Controversy

Recent developments in economics and politics across the world have not only modified power relations between different nations and thereby changed the contours of the two spheres, but they have also completely changed the whole idea of progress forcing to change plans according to criteria that are no longer exclusively functional or economic.

On the one hand, we find imperatives of material growth that demand alternative routes to economic development. On the other hand, traditional forms of legitimizing decisional processes no longer seem able to respond to the ever more pressing claims of societies increasing concern about their futures.

For purely material reasons regarding the scarcity of resources and the impossibility of sharing common rules in a global context, the European Union (EU) had to modify, enlarge and differentiate its sphere of action from the mere production of material goods following the tenets of Fordist capitalism to the creation of more complex knowledge, the production of which is better able to respond to the dynamics of a post-Fordist system. As shown by recent analyses about the relationship between capital, production and market [PIK 14, STR 14], European economic development is now closely linked to progress in production of knowledge as opposed to the exploitation of materials. In this sense, it is knowledge(s) that is the central economic strategy aimed at obtaining economic progress. It is, therefore, fundamental to increase measures designed to liberate the potential inherent in Research and Innovation (R&I), paying special attention to Small and Medium Enterprises (SMEs), as they are more likely to produce flexible solutions.

R&Is are then identified as the main responses in order to deal with the shift in the barycenter of global capitalism because they are more flexible and able to produce a higher profit with a little investment.

More precisely, innovation, which is based on the model developed by Schumpeter, specifically answers the requests of avoiding an approach of intensive exploitation, unfeasible in the European context, and of using existing resources. As we know, Schumpeter introduced a non-circular and dynamic model of an economy based on the capability of the entrepreneur to have an intuition and to introduce a new combination of existing factors onto the market [SCH 34a]. Economic development, according to Schumpeter, “consists mostly of the different employment of existing resources, in doing new things with them, without considering if these resources have increased or not” [SCH 34a, p. 70]. Innovation is composed of three main aspects for Schumpeter: “a spontaneous change”, within a “dynamic theoretical apparatus” incarnated in the figure of the “entrepreneur” [SCH 34, p. 81]. The entrepreneur must act according to the novelty; he/she will imagine a depiction of the future. The prediction of effects of an economic endeavour is, for Schumpeter, impossible. “Even with an intense preliminary work we cannot exhaustively grasp all the effects and repercussions of the plan. The length of such prevision would be theoretically impossible, according to the environment and the occasion, when we dispose of unlimited means and time, poses difficulties that are practically insurmountable” [SCH 34a, p. 83]. Therefore, the entrepreneur, due to an intuition, will put in place that operation of mixture and interdisciplinary transposition of a “methodology”, a “product”, a “market”, “resource” or “reorganization”. Accordingly, the entrepreneur, due to an intuition, will put in place an operation of shuffle and interdisciplinary transposition of a “method”, a “product”, “market”, “supply source” or “[re]organization” [SCH 34a, p. 68]. Considering the tendency to habitual behaviors that pervades the human realm, innovation will happen only as an expression of a great liberty by its entrepreneur. We also need to underline the clear difference that Schumpeter emphasizes between invention and innovation where the latter represents the commercialization of an invention aimed at the satisfaction of needs. “Until they are not adopted in practice, the inventions from an economic point of view are irrelevant. And to actualize an improvement is a different task from the one inventing it” [SCH 34a, p. 86].

Schumpeter’s conception is based on the leadership that will be able to modify consumers’ preferences according to their capacities of imagining and recombining. It is then not difficult to grasp the connection between this conception and the importance of innovation that has been assumed for maintaining and developing the economy, especially during a period of crisis.

However, this model ended fairly soon by having been applied to itself. As the promotion of social and material progress itself requires economic strategies of highly innovative character, creativity, imagination and flexibility have become key words in order to obtain results in the field of research and innovation [HON 10, pp. 78–103].

In brief, if innovation in Schumpeter’s acception is directed towards the changing of products and processes, which we have been witnessing for some years, it could be defined as a change in the “paradigm of innovation” [GOD 07], that is to say an innovation of innovation itself1.

These changes, however, in the forms of production and the change in access to information as well as the development of new ways of participating in political life, have resulted in consequences of a practical nature in the social repercussions contributing to a real change in the current declination of the idea of progress, which can no longer be understood only according to the dictates of an economic system isolated from the rest of society. Nanotechnologies, genetically modified organisms (GMOs) and several other examples of disruptive technological innovations have caused considerable public outcry owing to consequences of which the effects are not fully known. This indignation has been raised not only because of the presence of these products on the market, but also for the way in which their commercialization was handled, being excluded from the assessment of any moral or ethical aspect. These events and the modalities of the relationship between society and institutions have generated a radical change in the forms of governance through which the interaction between science and society must be regulated. Because of its enormous social impacts, the satisfaction of needs, the main objective of Schumpeterian innovation, must be conjugated in other terms. We cannot limit the understanding of progress, which innovations should contribute to generation, to a technical or economic development, isolated from the rest of society.

Together with the above tendencies, there have also been developments confined to the political sphere where a greater access to information and knowledge and new deliberative forms of democracy have gradually been replacing traditional and dogmatic forms of representation in decisional processes [REB 05, ROS 08, REB 05, GOF 09].

If, as we have said, the need to compete with emerging global realities means that it is necessary to speed up innovation processes, at the same time these processes need to be guided, regulated and encouraged. It is, therefore, essential to establish criteria and parameters in order to evaluate the qualitative prism of research and innovation without this being an obstacle.

This is the aim of the criterion of responsibility, introduced definitively in Europe through the framework of responsible research and innovation (RRI), so as to respond both to the needs concerning the correct functionality of the innovation process and its ethical and political legitimacy. On the one hand, we need to increase the efficacy of R&I as a tool for developing our economies. On the other hand, we must guarantee the legitimacy in the way R&I is steered in respect to society and its needs, values and norms. From a logical point of view, efficacy tends toward practical application of a measure whether legitimacy relies on a theoretical justification of the adoption of certain measures. From a moral perspective, it is not clear which position we could assume in order to develop a legitimate process of R&I. Furthermore, the interpretations of the meaning of responsibility are not entirely clear in their connections. Ethically, it is also unclear how to conceive the relationship among different social spheres given the equal importance of the two sides of the coin. Finally, even on a political side, legitimacy and efficacy seem to be two imperatives difficult to conciliate in the decision-making process. We can underline once again the lively development of new processes for exerting democratic dialectics.

As a result of such an attempt, we are witnessing the redefinition of the concept of progress as the implementation of the relationship between freedom and equality in material and cultural terms.

For these reasons, of a different nature but all related to progress, the EU is developing the definition of a new framework able to respond to the challenges logically connected to this double imperative of legitimacy and efficacy. The notion of RRI emerges from the contemporary articulation between science, technology, economy and society. The increased complexity of technology, and research in general, has pushed us to find new comprehensive manners for steering innovation in science. In order to find the criteria that could contribute to define RRI in its components and as a whole, we need to try to understand its different aspects. The double imperative of legitimacy and efficacy requires the development of a conceptual proposal that can take into account all the difficulties, theoretical and practical, that such a notion entails. Our plan for this chapter is to make a short review on the different interpretations proposed with respect to RRI. First, we need to understand the evolution of a framework that, far from being a novelty, represents the last step of a long process that started in Europe at least 40 years ago. This will help us to understand the difficulties that emerged throughout the years and the solutions adopted. If the problems are quite clear from a conceptual point of view, the solutions or hypotheses for a solution are embedded in the political evolution themselves. A short review and the analysis of the latter could perhaps indicate the path for us to take.

Second, it will be important to grasp the conceptual proposals that have been suggested in the past to answer the questions arising from similar issues. From there, we will arrive at current developments proposed in respect to the framework of RRI. RRI being a new development, most of these interpretations tend to be prescriptive rather than descriptive, trying to define what RRI should be instead of what it is. We will analyze these theories and the paradigms at their bases according to the two criteria of legitimacy and efficacy, so as to be able to understand which aspects could be useful and which are not useful in helping us solve our thorny issues. At the end of this chapter, we will have analyzed the contours, problems, challenges and opportunities that such a framework entails.

We have hinted at the originality of RRI as being the answer to the economic challenges together with the social problems it entails. The social remodeling at the basis of these dynamics requires an effort that is itself innovative.

However, far from being an original problem, the relationship between science and society has often stumbled on its path in looking for a balanced solution. The relationship among different perspectives, the discrepancies in the interpretations of progress, as well as the complex relation between norms, their application and justification, are all problems that several authors have tried to solve throughout the last two centuries [GUN 98, FER 02, HAB 70, HAB 72, BEC 92, JON 79].

Until the 1970s, the general public still trusted, or, to a certain extent, was even enthusiastic about science: “In the 1960’s there was a widespread optimism about technology. The contraceptive pill, television, fashion, and more access to pleasure and leisure activities were changing social relationships across the class system, at a time when the ravages of World War II were fading. In 1963, the Labour Prime Minister Harold Wilson’s famous speech enthused about ‘How the Britain that is going to be forged in the white heat of this revolution will be no place for restrictive practices or outdate methods on either side of industry”’ [SYK 13].

This relationship, however, has deteriorated owing to the diffusion of conceptualizations that emphasize the risk, as well as to negative historical developments. Prior to the 1960s, there were of course criticisms, not only in philosophy [CAR 62] concerning the misuse of technology [HEI 08, HOR 02, HUS 70]. This type of criticism, however, taking into account its peculiarities, remained within the Weberian dichotomization, according to which there is an unbridgeable demarcation between technological and instrumental rationality. In this way, this conception, which developed according to forms and in different fields throughout the 20th Century, has led to the need to rethink the relationship between the two tendencies.

During the 1960s, this dichotomization became more radicalized due to an ideological superimposition with instrumental knowledge. Knowledge and sciences were no longer at this point simply blind disciplines activated by a necessary development but rather they had become ideological instruments of the elevation of values or expression of power (Foucault, Habermas). The perverse relationship between ideology and knowledge that was brought to light during that decade will lead to a counteroffensive that will concern various disciplines. The attempts made from a philosophical point of view [ARE 05, JON 79, HAB 68], and the sociological point of view [PAR 91, BEC 92], to recompose this fracture or at least to draw attention definitively to this unjustifiable distance must be read in this light. The famous formulae for which “knowledge is power and power is knowledge” and “knowledge” always presupposes an interest, shed much more light on this problem than a more anarchic criticism, and sum up what, a few years later, would be transformed into concrete measures aimed at redefining the entire institutionalized scenario.