Science and Engineering Ethics

, Volume 20, Issue 4, pp 963–983 | Cite as

“Broader Impacts” or “Responsible Research and Innovation”? A Comparison of Two Criteria for Funding Research in Science and Engineering

  • Michael DavisEmail author
  • Kelly Laas
Original Paper


Our subject is how the experience of Americans with a certain funding criterion, “broader impacts” (and some similar criteria) may help in efforts to turn the European concept of Responsible Research and Innovation (RRI) into a useful guide to funding Europe’s scientific and technical research. We believe this comparison may also be as enlightening for Americans concerned with revising research policy. We have organized our report around René Von Schomberg’s definition of RRI, since it seems both to cover what the European research group to which we belong is interested in and to be the only widely accepted definition of RRI. According to Von Schomberg, RRI: “… is a transparent, interactive process by which societal actors and innovators become mutually responsive to each other with a view to the (ethical) acceptability, sustainability and societal desirability of the innovation process and its marketable products (in order to allow a proper embedding of scientific and technological advances in our society).” While RRI seeks fundamental changes in the way research is conducted, Broader Impacts is more concerned with more peripheral aspects of research: widening participation of disadvantaged groups, recruiting the next generation of scientists, increasing the speed with which results are used, and so on. Nevertheless, an examination of the broadening of funding criteria over the last four decades suggests that National Science Foundation has been moving in the direction of RRI.


Research policy RRI Societally desirable research Social responsibility RCR 



This article was written with support from the European Community’s Seventh Framework Programme grant number 321400. Thanks to Doris Schroeder and two of this journal’s reviewers for helpful comments on earlier drafts.


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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media Dordrecht 2013

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Humanities Department, Center for the Study of Ethics in the ProfessionsIllinois Institute of TechnologyChicagoUSA
  2. 2.Center for the Study of Ethics in the ProfessionsChicagoUSA

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