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A regional science centre’s perspective on RRI Tools

How did we get involved in such an ambitious European project as RRI Tools? It all started when we were first approached by the European network of science centres and museums, Ecsite, to participate to a tender over a call pertaining to the production and use of a training and dissemination toolkit on responsible research and innovation. This topic appealed to us, as a science centre, because our job is to communicate on issues related to science, techniques and innovation. The idea is to give our audience the tools they need to demystify scientific information.

What makes this project relevant to us is that we have visibility at national level over what science centres can achieve. Indeed, we are part of the Inmédiats program, which stands for ‘Innovation, Mediation, Territories’; this means innovation for science centres within their ecosystems. A national project, it involves six science centres all over France. These include Science Animation in Toulouse, La Casemate in Grenoble, Espace des Sciences in Rennes, Cap Sciences in Bordeaux, Relais d’Sciences in Caen and Universcience in Paris. This programme aims at testing and sharing new ways of communicating science.

As such, we are engaged in a process to change the way we look at our own work, to be more inclusive, more reflexive. The idea is to try and break free from our preconceptions of how we ought to operate in our field. We are also interested in listening to what our audience, partners and other stakeholders have to say. It therefore seemed natural to invite our partners from the Inmédiats project to join the French hub.

After all, as science centres, each one of us is already a hub between scientists, policy makers, citizens, NGO’s etc. Each one of us knows its own local and regional ecosystem very well while retaining a wider view on national initiatives. Between the six of us, we can have a picture that should reflect that diversity and dynamism of initiatives throughout our country.

Currently, we are gathering information from all kind of initiatives. These include well-established participatory research programs, such as VigieNature, Noé Conservation, or the Seasons Observatory. Bringing together social entrepreneurs and scientists to tackle today’s social and environmental challenges, it also involves initiatives developed by young start-ups including Soscience! and the Atelier des jours à venir. We also focus on specific laboratories or research teams—such as the research laboratory LUTIN, the think tank Observatory for Responsible Innovation— as well as on individual researchers who question their own practice. Some, for example, are engaged, in the promotion of gender equality in science in addition to their scientific work. There are so many more that we cannot name them all.

It is a very thrilling work to get a deeper understanding of each one of these initiatives. And we hope they will contribute to help many others to get a better understanding of how RRI is not only another fancy word but can really mean something in the field.

Malvina Artheau, PhD in freshwater biology, head of the digital department at Science Animation Midi-Pyrénées, Toulouse, France, Coordinator for the French Hub in the RRI Tools project

Featured image credit: CC BY-NC-SA 2.0 by Science Animation (photo of 'Gourmet theatre')

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