PILOT STORY: Through Involve Hub gatherings, RCN received valuable input on how to facilitate more and ethically sound participation in R&I

The Research Council of Norway (RCN) has hosted three hub gatherings as its pilot in PRO-Ethics. Researchers and non-traditional stakeholders have come together to discuss ethics and participation processes, and given the Research Council much needed input on how to improve its own work with these issues.

The Research Council of Norway's pilot is a hub, or network, for knowledge sharing and learning on ethical citizen involvement in research and innovation, with RCN being the hub facilitator. The hub participants come from projects with citizen involvement funded by the Research Council, within health care research, climate and environmental research and research on issues related to challenged youth. This includes both researchers and municipal/regional/national participants. We have also a few key national actors such as The Norwegian National Research Ethics Committees, The Norwegian Association of Local and Regional Authorities (KS), and a civil society organisation. Relevant staff at RCN also take part.

We have now organised our three planned hub gatherings, all of them digital.

The first one took place 25 August 2022, with the heading: What ethical challenges do we face when citizens are involved in research? The second gathering took place 22 September 2022, with the heading: Join us in developing a new European framework for citizen involvement and ethics. This workshop focused on the draft ethical guidelines developed by PRO-Ethics.

The last gathering took place 30 January 2023, with the heading: How can the Research Council work better with ethics and citizen involvement? There were 17 participants. We had three different presentations, one from Gunhild Rønningen at RCN, who presented RCN's work with ethics and involvement, and two presentations from experienced project leaders who had recommendations for how RCN could improve this work. We had also reserved sufficient time for fruitful discussion among all participants.

Help to improve RCN's own processes and procedures
The input and suggestions RCN received during the presentations and discussions were really helpful and to-the-point. For instance, we got recommendations for how to ensure more focus on involvement and ethical issues in project proposals and project evaluation. There were discussions around conflicting issues related to GDPR and citizen science, which create difficulties for some citizen science projects. We also had discussions around the role and responsibility of RCN in relation to research ethics committees and research institutions.

The input we received, will feed into the work of RCN's working group on open research, research integrity and ethics, a group that is established to enhance RCN's processes in the field. It was therefore a very timely hub gathering since there is a momentum right now to influence RCN's procedures.

Photo: RCN
Published: 3.2.2023

Pilot stories
In the pilot stories, PRO-Ethics' RFO partners tell tales from behind the scenes during the planning and implementation of their pilot projects, offering a peek into how the pilots develop practically and over time. The goal is to better represent and learn from insights and tacit knowledge, some of which might be seen as smaller issues and hence downplayed or forgotten in official reporting, despite the learnings they may bring to others. The stories are fully available to all the project partners and support cross-learning activities and ultimately the ethics framework. Some of the stories will also be shared online with the wider public.