Adapt or perish? Assessing the recent shift in the European research funding arena from ‘ELSA’ to ‘RRI’

Life Sciences, Society and Policy 10 (1):1-19 (2014)
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Two decades ago, in 1994, in the context of the 4th EU Framework Programme, ELSA was introduced as a label for developing and funding research into the ethical, legal and social aspects of emerging sciences and technologies. Currently, particularly in the context of EU funding initiatives such as Horizon2020, a new label has been forged, namely Responsible Research and Innovation. What is implied in this metonymy, this semantic shift? What is so new about RRI in comparison to ELSA? First of all, for both labels, the signifier was introduced in a top-down manner, well before the concept that was signified by it had acquired a clear and stable profile. In other words, the signifier preceded the research strategies actually covered by these labels. Moreover, the newness of RRI does not reside in its interactive and anticipatory orientation, as is suggested by authors who introduced the term, but rather in its emphases on social-economic impacts

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Hub Zwart
Erasmus University Rotterdam


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