Teaching Responsible Research and Innovation: A Phronetic Perspective


Across the European research area and beyond, efforts are being mobilized to align research and innovation processes and products with societal values and needs, and to create mechanisms for inclusive priority setting and knowledge production. A central concern is how to foster a culture of “Responsible Research and Innovation” (RRI) among scientists and engineers. This paper focuses on RRI teaching at higher education institutions. On the basis of interviews and reviews of academic and policy documents, it highlights the generic aspects of teaching aimed at invoking a sense of care and societal obligation, and provides a set of exemplary cases of RRI-related teaching. It argues that the Aristotelian concept of phronesis can capture core properties of the objectives of RRI-related teaching activities. Teaching should nurture the students’ capacity in terms of practical wisdom, practical ethics, or administrative ability in order to enable them to act virtuously and responsibly in contexts which are often characterized by uncertainty, contention, and controversy.

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The work reported in this paper was performed in the context of the “Higher Education Institutions and Responsible Research and Innovation” (HEIRRI) project, which has received funding from the European Union’s Horizon 2020 research and innovation programme under Grant Agreement No. 666004. The authors wish to acknowledge the valuable advice offered by two anonymous reviewers.

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Correspondence to Niels Mejlgaard.

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Mejlgaard, N., Christensen, M.V., Strand, R. et al. Teaching Responsible Research and Innovation: A Phronetic Perspective. Sci Eng Ethics 25, 597–615 (2019). https://doi.org/10.1007/s11948-018-0029-1

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  • Responsible Research and Innovation
  • RRI teaching
  • Phronesis