PACITA is an EU-funded project that seeks to strengthen the capacity and institutional basis for knowledge-based policy-making on issues involving science, technology and innovation. The conference was a great outlet to discuss some of the questions central to the “Neuroenhancement - Responsible Research and Innovation” (NERRI) project.
NERRI refers in its name to the much discussed concept of Responsible Research and Innovation (RRI), which like other related concepts, calls for a societal dialogue in an early phase of the innovation process in order to expand the social basis of decision making to stakeholders and the general public. However, such societal dialogue and upstream engagement comes not without challenges. The so-called Collingridge-Dilemma, for example, states that in an early phase of technology development, knowledge about the technology and its consequences is often limited, so that a societal dialogue is difficult because of the vagueness of the topic. If the societal dialogue is started too late, however, technology development may have progressed so much that it is difficult to take societal voices into account. Upstream engagement and RRI also assume that there is a general willingness to participate in any discourse on new technologies, an assumption that does not always seem warranted. In this context Jürgen Hampel from the University of Stuttgart (Germany) and Nicole Kronberger from the Johannes Kepler University of Linz (Austria) invited papers for a session at the Pacita conference to discuss experiences with public engagement in a early phase of technology development.
Owing to the great response to this call, the convenors together with the organizers decided to dedicate not only one but two sessions to the topic and so the final conference program listed eight contributions under the title “Experiences with Early Engagement Activities: the Problems of Pro-active Public Engagement”. The speakers came from a number of countries and reported on experiences with various methods and contexts (ranging from IT to synthetic biology to neuroenhancement). This offered the great chance to discuss more general issues related to public engagement across research projects including Synenergene, Civisti, Shaping Future, and four contributions by Nerri members. The audience in a crammed full conference room clearly enriched the experience with a lively and engaged discussion and some further tricky questions. For those who could not attend: the conference proceedings including a number of Nerri contributions shall be published later this year.
In the picture (from right to left): Nicole Kronberger, Imre Bárd, Jürgen Hampel, Núria Saladié, Christian Hofmaier, Ronja Schütz
Nerri contributions at the Pacita conference:
J. Hampel, N. Kronberger: The Interface Between the Public and Science and Technology
C. Hofmaier, R. Schütz, E. Hildt: Challenges and Solutions of RRI-Problems in the Context of Neuro-Enhancement Technologies
G. Revuelta, N. Saladié: Citizen´s Debates About Neuro-Enhancement – The Spanish Case
I. Bárd: Feeding Hype or Anticipating Controversy? The Case of Neuro-Enhancement