Publication date: 01/06/2018


The concepts of risk and responsibility are often linked to discussions of emerging scientific fields, but studies into how these concepts are connected to research practices have been narrowly focused on risks for humans and the environment.

To broaden these concepts, “Responsible Research and Innovation” (RRI), a democratic governance framework, aims to enable societal discussions beyond traditional risk assessment and mitigation. Proponents of RRI argue that these discussions should not be confined to the direct risks of the research itself, but also include wider issues, such as “the purposes and motivations of research” [1]. Yet, it is not only RRI protagonists who want to broaden this conversation.

We found that scientists also ponder non‐technical risks, such as the impact of institutional demands on career, health and social relationships, or economic pressures from the incentive system in which much of research in biology is now embedded. These findings challenge the present formulation of RRI as a science governance framework and lead us to argue that “responsible” research and innovation systems can only succeed if these broader concerns are taken as seriously as the risk of laboratory accident or inadvertent release.

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