Collaboration, Fragmentation, Engagement, Responsible Research and Innovation


Responsible Research and Innovation (RRI) has recently gained recognition as a guiding principle for research to be more inclusive of societal needs. In response, the University of Malta led an internal qualitative study to assess attitudes and perceptions towards RRI. This approach paved the way for cultural and institutional changes that may not have developed otherwise. Academics, non-academic staff and students were interviewed alongside an online questionnaire totaling 29 face-to-face interviews and 226 survey responses. Thematic coding analysis revealed the core theme of fragmentation. Sub-themes stemming from fragmentation include challenges around collaboration, communication, politics, knowledge systems thinking and varied ideas of responsibility in research. While most respondents are in favor of RRI practice, several barriers affect an individual’s capacity to practice this approach, including lack of time and resources, and lack of recognition of public engagement (PE) efforts in the university’s current policies and governance structure. This research allowed for the development of a targeted Action Plan and set of initiatives to successfully begin implementing a culture of RRI best practice, including the establishment of the Committee for Engaged Research and fostering an internal network of individuals who are exemplary in RRI best practice. The thorough and targeted process has produced more significant and tangible results than moving directly into implementation, while also reducing the risk of future problems emerging from rushed initiatives. The authors conclude that such an approach is imperative for successful RRI implementation within institutions, especially when considering cultural/local context.   


Full Text : PDF

  • Alashwal, A. and Hamzah, A.R. (2014). Developing a conceptual framework of fragmentation in construction. Department of Quantity Surveying, Faculty of Built Environment, University of Malaya.
  • Aniekwe, C.C., Hayman, R. and Toner, A. (2012). Academic-NGO collaboration in international development research: A reflection on the issues.
  • Böger, E., Carrier, M., Gartzlaff, M. and König, R. (2017). Survey Result Report. Deliverable 3.5. NUCLEUS project.
  • Briguglio, M. and Bonello, S. (2018). No Man's Land: People, place and pollution. Kite Publishing: Malta.
  • Cadogan, J. (2014). Curiosity-driven “blue sky” research: A threatened vital activity? The Learned Society of Wales.
  • Courchamp, F., Dunne, J.A., Le Maho, Y., May, R.M., Thébaud, C. and Hochberg, M.E. (2015). Fundamental ecology is fundamental. Trends in ecology & evolution, 30(1), pp.9–16.
  • Dentoni, D. and Bitzer, V. (2015). The role(s) of universities in dealing with global wicked problems through multi-stakeholder initiatives. Journal of Cleaner Production, 106, 68–78.
  • Dierckx de Casterlé, B.D., Gastmans, C., Bryon, E. and Denier, Y. (2012). QUAGOL: A guide for qualitative data analysis. International journal of nursing studies, 49(3), pp.360–371.
  • Dijkstra, A.J. and Hanmer, L.C. (2000). Measuring Socio-Economic GENDER Inequality: Toward an Alternative to the UNDP Gender-Related Development Index, Feminist Economics, 6(2), 41–75,
  • Directorate-General for Communication European Commission (2012). Europeans and their languages. Special Eurobarometer, 386.
  • European Commission (2014a). Responsible research and innovation: Europe’s ability to respond to societal challenges.
  • European Commission (2014b). Rome Declaration on Responsible Research and Innovation in Europe.
  • Euroscientist (2016). Inspiring findings to expand the RRI scene. Available at: [Accessed 12 January 2020].
  • Falzon, M.A. and Micallef, M. (2008). Sacred island or world empire? Locating far-right movements in and beyond Malta. Journal of Contemporary European Studies, 16(3), pp.393–406.
  • Felt, U. (2017). “Response-able practices” or “new bureaucracies of virtue”: the challenges of making RRI work in academic environments. Responsible Innovation, 3, pp. 49–68.
  • Fereday, J. and Muir-Cochrane, E. (2006). Demonstrating Rigor Using Thematic Analysis: A Hybrid Approach of Inductive and Deductive Coding and Theme Development. International Journal of Qualitative Methods, 5(1).
  • Forsberg, E.M., Shelley-Egan, C., Ladikas, M. and Owen R. (2018). Implementing Responsible Research and Innovation in Research Funding and Research Conducting Organizations—What Have We Learned so Far? Governance and Sustainability of Responsible Research and Innovation Processes, pp. 3–11.
  • Fransman, J., Newman, K. and Cornish, H. (2017). Rethinking Research Partnerships: Discussion Guide and Toolkit.
  • Gerber, A. (2018). RRI: How to ‘mainstream’ the ‘upstream’ engagement. Journal of Science Communication, 17(3), C06.
  • Grimpe, C. and Hussinger, K. (2013). Formal and informal knowledge and technology transfer from academia to industry: Complementarity effects and innovation performance. Industry and innovation, 20(8), pp.683–700.
  • Grinbaum, A. and Groves, C. (2013). What Is “Responsible” about Responsible Innovation? Understanding the Ethical Issues. Responsible Innovation: Managing the Responsible Emergence of Science and Innovation in Society, (April 2013), pp. 119–142.
  • Government of Malta (2020). About: The Maltese Islands. Available at: [Accessed 09 February 2020].
  • Hart, A., Davies, C., Aumann, K., Wenger, E., Aranda, K., Heaver, B. and Wolff, D. (2013). Mobilising knowledge in community-university partnerships: what does a community of practice approach contribute? Contemporary Social Science: Journal of the Academy of Social Sciences, 8(3), pp. 278–291.
  • Kupper, F., Klaassen, P., Rijnen, M., Vermeulen, S., Woertman R. and Broerse, J. (2015). A catalogue of good RRI practices (types, agendas and dimensions). Deliverable 1.4, RRI Tools project.
  • Landa, L.G.G. (2006). Academic Language Barriers and Language Freedom. Current Issues in Language Planning, 7(1), pp. 61–81.
  • Leydesdorff, L. (2012). The triple helix, quadruple helix, …, and an N-tuple of helices: explanatory models for analyzing the knowledge-based economy? Journal of the Knowledge Economy, 3(1), pp.25–35.
  • Lombard, M., Snyder-Duch, J. and Bracken, C.C. (2002). Content Analysis in Mass Communication: Assessment and Reporting of Intercoder Reliability. Human Communication Research, 28(4), pp. 587–604.
  • Lucas, L. (2007). Research and teaching work within university education departments: fragmentation or integration? Journal of further and higher education, 31(1), pp.17–29.
  • MacLaughlin, A., Wihbey, J. and Smith, D.A. (2018). Predicting news coverage of scientific articles. Twelfth International AAAI Conference on Web and Social Media.
  • Macnaghten, P., Owen, R., Stilgoe, J., Wynne, B., Azevedo, A., de Campos, Chilvers, J., Dagnino, R., Di Giulio, G., Frow, E. and Garvey, B. (2014). Responsible innovation across borders: tensions, paradoxes and possibilities. Journal of Responsible Innovation, 1(2), pp. 191–199.
  • Mahony, N. and Stephansen, H.C. (2017). Engaging with the public in public engagement with research. Research for All, 1(1), pp.35–51.
  • Mauranen, A., Hynninen, N. and Ranta, E. (2010). English as an academic lingua franca: The ELFA project. English for Specific Purposes, 29(3), pp. 183–190.
  • Meijlgaard, N. (2016). Stock Taking/Inventorying (WP2) D2.2 State of the Art Review. HEIRRI Project.
  • National Coordinating Centre for Public Engagement (2018). What is public engagement? Available at: [Accessed 22 February 2020].
  • NVivo qualitative data analysis software (2015). QSR International Pty Ltd. Version 11.
  • Olmos-Peñuela, J., Molas-Gallart, J. and Castro-Martínez, E. (2013). The role of informal collaborations in the social sciences and humanities, Polytechnic University of Valencia.
  • Owen, R., Stilgoe, J., Macnaghten, P., Gorman, M., Fisher, E. and Guston, D. (2013). A framework for responsible innovation. Responsible innovation: managing the responsible emergence of science and innovation in society, 31, pp.27–50.
  • Packman, C., Rutt, L. and Williams, G. (2017). The value of experts, the importance of partners, and the worth of the people in between. Participations: Journal of Audience & Reception Studies, 14(1), p. 376.
  • Pudelko, M. and Tenzer, H. (2019). Boundaryless careers or career boundaries? The impact of language barriers on academic careers in international business schools. Academy of Management Learning & Education, 18(2), pp.213–240.
  • Russell, C. (2010). Covering controversial science: Improving reporting on science and public policy. Science and the Media, pp.13–43.
  • Sarewitz, D. (2012). Blue-sky bias should be brought down to Earth. Nature, 481(7379), pp.7–7.
  • Schmidt, B. (2014). Women, research and universities: excellence without gender bias. Paths to Career and Success for Women in Science, pp. 93–116.
  • Senge, P. and Kim, D.H. (2013). From Fragmentation to Integration: Building Learning Communities, Reflections, 12(4).
  • Senge, P. (2006). The fifth discipline: The art and practice of the learning organization. Broadway Business.
  • Selvaraj, S., Borkar, D.S. and Prasad, V. (2014). Media coverage of medical journals: do the best articles make the news? PLoS One, 9(1).
  • Simone, A. (2018). Steering research and innovation through RRI. What horizon for Europe? Journal of Science Communication, 17(3), p.C02.
  • Śliwa, M. and Johansson, M. (2014). How non-native English-speaking staff are evaluated in linguistically diverse organizations. Journal of International Business Studies, 45(9) pp. 1133–1151.
  • Stipp, S.L.S. (2010). Strategic or blue-sky research? Elements, 6(3), pp. 139–140.
  • Tassone, V.C., O’Mahony, C., McKenna, E., Eppink, H.J. and Wals E.J. (2018). (Re-)designing higher education curricula in times of systemic dysfunction: a responsible research and innovation perspective. Higher Education, 76(2), pp. 337–352.
  • Watermeyer, R. (2015). Lost in the ‘third space’: the impact of public engagement in higher education on academic identity, research practice and career progression. European Journal of Higher Education, 5(3), pp.331–347.