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Putting responsible research and innovation into practice: a case study for biotechnology research, exploring impacts and RRI learning outcomes of public engagement for science students

  • Janice LimsonEmail author
S.I.: Responsible Research and Innovation


The responsible research and innovation (RRI) framework seeks to bring science closer to society, with scientific research conducted not just for the benefit of society, but with role players in society engaging with scientists on research and innovation at every stage. A central focus of the RRI framework is the approach taken to embed these concepts in the higher education training of science students. In this study the direct engagement between science students (discussing their research) and the public is explored as an opportunity for achieving RRI learning outcomes. The study also explores the potential benefits that such direct engagement with the public holds for postgraduate biotechnology students. The case study described here suggests that even brief interactions with the public through science engagement activities such as “Speed-Date-a-Scientist” can contribute towards affirmation of choice of career, students’ motivation as researchers and shaping of their identity as scientists, important processes in their own learning to become scientists. Students also indicated a greater sense of motivation to do research that benefits the public, resonating with RRI learning outcomes.


Biotechnology Public engagement Responsible research and innovation RRI RRI education Science students Higher education institutions 



This study was funded through the Department of Science and Technology/National Research Foundation South African Research Chair in Biotechnology Innovation & Engagement (Grant Number 95319). Dr Ronen Fogel is acknowledged for conceptual and theoretical input into the design of the science engagement interventions.

Compliance with ethical standards

Conflict of interest

The author declares that there is no conflict of interest.

Ethical approval

Ethical approval for this study was provided by the Rhodes University Faculty of Pharmacy Ethics Committee under the tracking number: PHARM-2017-07.


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Copyright information

© Springer Nature B.V. 2018

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Biotechnology Innovation CentreRhodes UniversityGrahamstownSouth Africa

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