The HubIT concept: An interdisciplinary approach to responsible ICT research and innovation

Information and Communication Technologies (ICT) have great potential to transform society significantly. Therefore, there is a need to engage wider stakeholder communities and incorporate different kinds of knowledge in ICT research and innovation to ensure that both process and outcomes are socially desirable and acceptable. The HubIT concept offers an approach that takes its point of departure in this context.

The HubIT concept at a glance

What is the essence of the HubIT concept? This can be explained in one sentence:

It is an interdisciplinary approach which aims at aligning both the process and outcomes of ICT research and innovation with the values, needs and expectations of society.

The concept has not been thought out completely out of the blue. On the contrary. It builds on existing frameworks and ideas. If you would like to delve further into these building blocks we encourage you to continue reading.

Exploring the building blocks of the HubIT concept

The HubIT project is a result of the European Commission’s strategy to mainstream RRI and SSH in the ICT-related topics of the Horizon 2020 Work Programme 2016-17. Horizon 2020 is the current Framework Programme for Research and Innovation of the European Commission. But what is RRI and SSH?

RRI stands for Responsible Research and Innovation. In brief, it can be understood as an approach which ensures that research and innovation activities are being carried out in a reflective and inclusive way. The aim of RRI is to ensure that research and innovation are undertaken in the public interest. The European Commission has formulated RRI in terms of six policy key areas: Public engagement, open access, gender equality, science education, ethics, and governance.

This is just one way of understanding RRI. Other RRI approaches have also been formulated (for instance, the AREA framework).

As presented above the HubIT concept also deals with interdisplinarity. In this context, interdisciplinarity is understood as collaboration between ICT and SSH. SSH stands for Social Sciences and Humanities which comprise disciplines like sociology, anthropology, philosophy and linguistics. You can see the Commission’s full list of SSH disciplines here.

The European Commission views RRI and SSH as intertwined cross-cutting issues in Horizon 2020. However, according to the Commission, the role of SSH should not be confined to ensuring that RRI is implemented in ICT; SSH should also be recognised as sources and contributors to innovation.

HubIT message: Co-responsibility to implement RRI in ICT

The European Commission’s strategy is only a starting point. The HubIT concept moves beyond this. In the course of the project ICT and SSH communities are invited to join the process of co-creating the concept. So far, the following message has been added:

It is a co-responsibility of ICT and SSH to make ICT innovation responsible. ICT and SSH should be equal partners in RRI discussions.

The goal of the HubIT concept is to end up with a definition that is equally shared by ICT and SSH – and in this way contribute to a common vision for future interdisciplinary and responsible ICT research and innovation.

The HubIT concept and the way forward

In the General Introduction to the final Horizon 2020 Work Programme (2018-2020) the European Commission continues to prioritise SSH integration and RRI issues:

“A true interdisciplinary approach with the integration of SSH is crucial to deliver on the ambition to solve global challenges and create jobs and growth. In the last work programme of Horizon 2020 accordingly there will be an increased emphasis on integrating SSH.” (see page 8)

“There has also been a sustained effort to reflect Responsible Research and Innovation (RRI) issues in all work programme parts.” (see page 9)

But what about in the next Framework Programme – Horizon Europe? The HubIT project will follow the developments closely and in this way continuously bring the concept up-to-date according to research policy.

In the meantime we highly encourage you to contribute to the further development of the concept! Join the dialogue and share your experiences with the benefits of responsible ICT research and innovation and collaboration between ICT and SSH communities.

Bring yourself up to date on #RRI

There are many great RRI projects and therefore also great resources out there. But how to find them? If you are new to the field and would like to get in the game quickly then Twitter is a great place to start. Join the conversation using the hashtag #RRI.

In addition we would also like to draw your attention to RRI Tools. This EU project has built up a toolkit with different kinds of resources dealing with RRI, and it addresses newcomers to RRI directly. The project’s “RRI in a nutshell” is a great place to start. Even though the project has officially ended its toolkit is still being continuously updated with new RRI resources.

And then of course we encourage you to explore the other HubIT resources too! They will help you put the concept into action.

Be a part of HubIT

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