Responsible Research and the Semantics of University’s Third Mission. A Theoretical Discussion
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According to literature, scientific research has undergone very profound and rapid changes in the last decades which implied, among other things, the emergence of the need for responsible scientific practices and attitudes. Accordingly, the European Commission has recently launched a specific Action Plan centred on Responsible Research and Innovation (RRI). The paper discusses some of the implications of the possible declinations of the term responsibility by schematically recalling such notions as answerability, imputability, liability in order to highlight the relational character of responsibility as a result of a complex interplay of expectations and anticipations about actions and their fallouts. Building on such premises, science-society relationships are reconsidered within an analytical framework based on a series of tripartitions. Thus, some relevant components of the concept of third mission are discussed, which concern key relational aspects (regulatory principles and involvement/participation of stakeholders), as well as drivers for action (interests) that are connected to different epistemologies and kind of impacts. Three possible declinations are then identified for each one of those components which taken altogether compose three relevant and relatively autonomous semantic areas of the concept of third mission which correspond respectively to knowledge transfer, public engagement and community engagement. Such dimensions are summarized within the RePAIED scheme based on Regulatory principles, Participation styles, Actors’ interests and Emancipatory Dynamics. A proposal is finally sketched to use the RePAIED tripartition as an analytic tool for the assessment of RRI.
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