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From Ethical Review to Responsible Research and Innovation by Bernard Reber, Sophie Pellé

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Introduction

Could and should research and innovation be responsible? The question is now asked, especially in Europe, with regard to the concept of responsible research and innovation (RRI). However, research and responsibility do not seem to belong to the same world, nor have the same requirements. The issue of knowledge versus ethics is almost as old as Plato’s opinion when he felt that science was coming to a consensus more easily than ethics, or to put it another way that ethical disagreements could separate the best of friends. Things have changed since the end of World War II. The errors of this disastrous period, and also the power of new technologies, sometimes accompanied by controversies broadcasting in the public sphere, have started to blur this separation between science and ethics.

A closer look shows that research and innovation already comply with many types of responsibilities that we will need to explain. What is new with RRI is that the choice of research and the way it is conducted is now implemented more reactively (responsiveness). If this is already true for innovation, research must still strive to improve its responsiveness, both for these choices and means.

However, another form of responsibility, specific to research ethics within the framework of projects financed by public funds, particularly European, is not endowed with reflections on RRI. Besides, how did such a conception come so abruptly to some like a thunderclap?

The 20th Century witnessed ...

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