Positioning and orchestration

7 Principle 4: Modularity and flexibility

Legitimate and effective governance is founded on a careful combination of ‘hard’ and ‘soft’ regulatory mechanisms. It allows for self-regulation and organisation, as well as exter- nal control and accountability structures (e.g. supervision), where the flexibility of governance arrangements should not lead to arbitrariness. Guiding questions include: What is the existing mix of governance tools that influences the debate and decisions concerning the issue at stake? Do affected stakeholders regard this mix as appropriate? How difficult are they to implement and what could be done to support implementation? Are there enough financial resources, managerial capacity and appropriate organisational conditions in place to support their implementation jointly or independently? Are they easily understood by the stakeholders involved?

Example 4: A flexible code of conduct for responsibility across insti- tutions and research practices

A large semi-public lab in the field of nano-toxicology is committed to the highest ethical standards and the ac- commodation of societal concerns and needs, with recruitment procedures and training aimed at establishing and pro- moting a diverse workforce. The institute has established a number of internal principles and processes to achieve this mission, which are reviewed periodically (principle 4: modularity). One core instru- ment is a professional code of conduct for engineers and scientists in the field of nanosciences and technologies, which takes account of national differences in professional traditions (principle 4: flex- ibility). Its contents are integrated into the institute’s internal guidelines and employment contracts, and promoted throughout the organisation from re- cruitment up to all major activities (prin- ciple 4: communication, mechanisms to be easy to understand). Further, the institute conducts periodic internal and external seminars and meetings to deliberate and
anticipate the ethical, health, natural environment, regulatory and socio-eco- nomic implications of the laboratory’s research lines and how their research re- lates to societal challenges. In addition to these soft instruments, there is a formal sign-off process for all research activities (including, but not limited to, external research proposals), which again links to the code and the internal guidelines (principle 4: combining ‘hard’ and ‘soft’ regulatory mechanisms). Working with the code gives staff a “responsibility lit- eracy” and creates awareness internally (see also principle 7: capabilities); it also positions the institute as a credible ac- tor within the broader professional and societal discourse on responsibility, able to influence debates both specifically and generally towards a more systemic adoption of and commitment to respon- sibility by organisations (see also princi- ple 5: subsidiarity, influencing and taking advantage of higher levels of governance).