Connecting practices: sure, but how?
How does a cooperation between academic researchers and public and private partners in the field of responsible innovation come about? What are the challenges, and how to overcome them? During the conference Connecting practices, ample best practices were shared, and during several workshops possible solutions and suggestions were discussed for practical problems that can arise when working on a (sensitive) societal issue.
Workshop cooperation between different practices
The workshop ‘Cooperation between different practices’ offered attendants the opportunity to discuss the different perspectives scientists, private and public parties can have in an MVI-research project, and how to deal with those. The workshop started with three short presentations, sharing some of the difficulties that might arise in such a partnership.
Sue-Yen Tjong Tjin Tai from Rathenau institute stated that ‘True partnering in a project means you have to behave like marriage partners: you have to respect each other’s different interests, and look for the common goal.’ Koen Beumer from Utrecht University talked about his experience with private parties backing out from a research project, since they were afraid that because of their involvement, the public wouldn’t trust the outcome anyhow. And Eefje Cuppen from Delft University of Technology brought up the tension that can arise when some of the stakeholders are more financially involved than others. Academic researchers per definition take a neutral stance, but the public sometimes has a different image.
Funding shapes cooperation
In three groups, animated debates started. The scientists in the audience stated to highly value the possibility to get funds for the preparatory phase of a project, in which the stakeholders are getting involved. NWO can help, for example, with providing infrastructures for matchmaking and communication. ‘When we are able to define a project together with all stakeholders involved, that increases the chance of all possible viewpoints being equally represented in the project.’
Exploring and taking down possible barriers for cooperation
In a workshop led by Frank Kupper from VU University Amsterdam held the previous day, MVI-scientists had defined some new strategies to overcome challenges in cooperating with non-academic partners. They concluded that researchers need to value the knowhow each partner brings to the table, and to invest in enhancing the general public’s understanding of how science works. Furthermore, the group concluded that expectation management is key for a fruitful cooperation: ‘We must really listen to each other and keep communicating about the needs of all parties involved. And we as scientists must make it absolutely clear that it is neither our purpose to legitimate actions of a company, nor to be the spokesperson for an interest group. We research what’s going on in an objective way, without having an opinion about it.’
Photography: Wil van der Voort (Beelding)