The long-awaited question about developing Social Responsibility towards Scientific Research finally reached the surface.

On June 17, more that 80 people from academia, industry and policy gathered in Copenhagen to discuss the idea and development of Scientific Social Responsibility (SSR). The SSR-conference was an initiative from DEACBSISSP,SDU and ATV, which aimed to set the scene for a wider debate of the role and nature of SSR. The conference gave insights in different perspectives of SSR and started an important and long-awaited discussion about the social responsibility that goes hand in hand with scientific practice.

Various actors have called for science-society engagement, reflexivity, dialogue and other ways of increasing the social responsibility of scientific knowledge production. Despite the widespread interest in this area, consensus about how SSR is and should be exercised at the different levels is still lacking. For instance, it is unclear how institutional policy statements (at the macro level) can have an effect on the management of research settings and laboratories (at the meso level) or the actual practice of working researchers (at the micro level).

The conference was a combination of informative presentations and panel discussions. This combination made it possible for the conference to develop in various directions and discuss the widespread questions, without losing focus on the overall topic.

Core issues on the conference agenda included:

  • How can actors of academia be socially accountable and responsible towards a greater good?
  • What are the social responsibilities of science in relation to business and innovation?
  • Can representatives of the social sciences and humanities be active in enlarging the ethical, economic and social capacity of the emergent knowledge societies?

The main question was, how SSR should be understood and operationalized in order to add value to institutional policy statements, research management guidelines as well as the daily scientific practice.

The conference consisted in two keynotes and three panel discussions. As stated explicitly in the conference program, the purpose of the conference was not to come to any overall agreement, but rather to open a crucial discussion about the development of SSR and give people a chance to speak up.

Perhaps, the most important lesson from the conference was that it emphasized that SSR is unavoidably  a two-way relationship presupposing not only dialogue, but alsoagreement on perspective as well as trust. While the conference definitely succeeded in its declared purpose by facilitating a dialogue giving voice to many different perspectives on SSR, it also made clear some of the most important challenges we face: the need to discuss these perspectives much further as well as the urgent need to close the gap of trust that has opened between policy-makers and the academic world.

You may read the highlights of the SSR-conference here.

 

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