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NANO2021-Nanoteknologi og nye materiale

Performing ELSA.Governance of and governmentality in biotechnology and nanotechnology research

Awarded: NOK 5.6 mill.

Research and development and new technologies are expressions of and may lead to major social changes. Therefore, in recent decades, research policy has tried to cater for different ways that research and development actors be aware of their social responsibility. For example, the NFR ELSA program would facilitate ethical, legal, and social aspects to be integrated into research projects. Recently, the ELSA program was replaced by SAMANSVAR or Responsible Research and Innovation (RRI). This reflects an international trend. RRI is a theme in research policy in several European countries and at EU level. The central dimensions of RRI are a) to initiate closer cooperation between different social actors in research and development work. b) to align research toward solving social challenges and shared values, and c) to prevent negative consequences of research. The PerformE-project investigated what capabilities researchers have to translate these dimensions as well as ethical, legal, and social aspects into their research practices. The project began with mapping native understandings of ethical, legal and social aspects of research projects. The reason for this was our assumption that one must first know how these might already be in place before requiring change. Furthermore, we wanted to investigate where these understandings come from and what the researchers build their knowledge on. A further aim was to compare ideas in research policy documents with the researchers' own narratives about what their working day consists of. From a general point of view, the research contributes to studies on how governance and self-governance interact and on how policies are translated into practice. For example, we wondered how the researchers met user involvement requirements. To answer these questions, we followed a research strategy that was composed of several methods: analysis of Norwegian news media, analysis of research policy documents and 37 narrative interviews with researchers in nano- and biotechnology. We focused on nano- and biotechnology because the RCN?s ELSA program had focused on them and because these technosciences are seen as areas with great potential for changing society. We divided these fields into five groups: nanomedicine, biomaterials, genetic medicine, nanotechnology in energy, and synthetic biology in order to compare among sectors. An assumption that led to this selection was that sectors that directly work with patients or organic materials are more concerned with ethical, legal, and social aspects of research than more technical areas such as energy technology. Main results: ? User involvement. We analyzed scientists? imagined publics and how these imaginations affect their approach to public engagement. Scientists have little experience with user involvement and find it hard to understand what to get out of it. However, they believe that lay people have something to contribute concerning the significance of research in a larger context. ? Public dissemination. Regarding mediating bio- and nanotechnology in Norwegian media, representations of nanotechnology were consistently positive in contrast to biotechnology. The researchers are the main sources for media articles and thus shape the media discourse, but the biotechnology discourse also bears signs of public issues (such as egg donation or surrogacy). ? Implementation of research politics and social responsibility. We compared how social responsibility is envisioned catered for by comparing scientists take on social responsibility and research policy documents. We found that researchers and the RCN agree that social benefits are important, but their perceptions of whether this is taken care of or not differ. ? Responsiveness to societal concerns. How do scientists respond when a society-relevant concern arises in the research process? We see that researchers tend to seek help from professional ethics actors, but that research practices (such as research questions asked) are not adapted as a response. ? Enacting RRI. Finally, we explicitly analyzed how researchers translated demands for RRI into practice. The analysis shows that the conditions in the university and research sector (especially time pressure) do not provide sufficient room for reflection and inclusion processes. In general, it is difficult to orient research toward delivering certain types of results when we acknowledge research practices as tinkering.

The project subscribes to the thesis that science governance has to incorporate good conduct, such as democratic deliberations, reflexivity, capacity building, or qualitative assessment suggested by these renowned authors. To support these transformations , the project aims to increase the understanding of the practices and constraints of technoscientific development and thus, of the conditions of virtuously enacting ELSA. This leads to the following research questions: 1. What are scientists and innovato rs? accounts of the ethical, social and legal aspects of their research and innovation efforts, and how do they see their responsibility with respect to these concerns? What methods do they perceive to have available to enact concerns? What are the actors ? experiences with respect to what facilitates good conduct and what hinders it? 2. Where do interactions between science and society take place in the practices of scientists and engineers, and what alternative spaces could they imagine to create? What external features influence the performance of ELSA concerns and demands? 3. How is science governance actually performed with respect to ELSA issues? Do we observe the emergence of new regulatory practices, seen from the activities of the scientists and engineers? The project will investigate five sites from the following areas of bio- and nanotechnological research: Nanomedicine, biomaterials, gene therapy, synthetic biology, and nanomaterials within energy. This will be done through qualitative interv iews, in combination with analysis of relevant documents concerning ELSA-related regulation efforts. In addition, we shall study newspaper articles about bio- and nanotechnology to inquire into the possible mediatization of ELSA concerns with respect to t hese technology. This is intended as a way of analyzing external factors influencing bio- and nanotechnology technoscientist to reflect about and - possibly - enact ELSA concerns.

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NANO2021-Nanoteknologi og nye materiale