Positioning and orchestration
Principle 6: Adaptability
Governance towards responsibilisation should be able to reflect different historical developments of R&I systems and changing conditions. Therefore, such calibration requires an assessment of whether governance arrangements still effec- tively and legitimately serve responsibility goals. This must consider that the goals, costs and consequences of govern- ance instruments and arrangements may also change over time.
Guiding questions include:
Is the current understanding of the governance challenges still valid despite changes in the context and conditions?
If the supporting assumptions and mechanisms fail, can we re- place them without major problems and how?
What (positive and negative) non-intended effects may result from their implementation?
How could they affect the current distribution of burdens and benefits among the stakeholders involved?
Example 6: Institutionalising ethical business practice in a highly con- tested technological area
A medium-sized firm leads research on the digital genome and its application to medical innovation. With the advent of rapid sequencing and digital synthe- sis of DNA / genomes, it capitalises on the many commercial opportunities in the fast growing area of personalised health. Fully aware of the threats posed by the ‘transparent individual’, including pressure from employers and insurers to disclose personal health information, the firm uses various responsible governance mechanisms. Its own ethics committee meets quarterly to advise researchers, product and marketing managers on the ethical and societal implications of new products and processes. The ethics com- mittee comprises different research and business representatives within the or- ganisation (senior / junior individuals), ex- ternal stakeholders, and experts, includ- ing social scientists (principle 1: targeted inclusion, sufficient level of representation). Recommendations by the committee re- quire a formal response by the responsi- ble researcher, product manager and the firm’s leadership before implementation. A ‘roving’ social scientist is embedded in the company to advise on socio-technical integration, building reflexive capabilities
to question the status quo, facilitating bottom-up participation, guided by top- down protocols. This approach supports the development and adaptive transla- tion of RRI principles into practice across the business. In addition, an external ad- visory board representing divergent views meets every two years to reflect on the field’s development, its application con- text and the broader societal and political trends as novel business models associat- ed with the digital genome emerge (prin- ciple 6: adaptability, in-built mechanisms to reflect on the appropriateness of the existing internal governance mechanism). The board reviews the work of the ethics committee, its guiding mission, principles, operationalisation, and proposes new or revised working practices, and how the organisation can institutionalise respon- sibility to increase employees’ awareness of societal concerns (principle 7: capability building; principle 8: capacity). The firm’s CEO participates, and encourages em- ployees to shape the broader societal multi-actor discourse on genomics and personalised health. The firm receives an award for its effective implementation and leadership in RRI; its share price, turn- over and profits continue to grow.