The Danish Board of Technology Foundation
The Danish Board of Technology Foundation (DBT) is a non-profit corporate foundation working for the common good. The mission of the Foundation is to ensure that society’s development is shaped by informed and forward-looking cooperation between citizens, experts, stakeholders, and decision-makers. To this end the Foundation performs and facilitates public engagement, Responsible Research and Innovation (RRI), co-creation processes, technology assessment, research and foresight, and new forms of governance.
In the Council of Coaches project, the role of the DBT is to develop and monitor the RRI-work throughout the project in order to facilitate that abstract notions of responsibility are thoroughly deliberated and fleshed out in relation to the concrete subject matter and find their way into the development process as well as into the final product. In February the Council of Coaches RRI Vision was finalized. In March an RRI intervention was carried out at the Valencia Hackathon. At the moment, the project team is occupied with developing the overall strategy and practical implementation plan for the RRI work throughout the project period, as well as preparing the next intervention which will take place at the Technical Integration Week in Enschede towards the end of this month.
We talked to Rasmus Øjvind Nielsen, Project Manager at DBT
Hej Rasmus! When did you get involved in the Council of Coaches?
I got onboard the Council of Coaches project from the beginning but was never involved in writing the proposal. The project is a good fit for my research profile, however, since my main focus is on new institutional and organizational forms in the responsible governance of science, technology and innovation.
How do you think RRI fits to the Council of Coaches?
The Council of Coaches project has from the start been designed to implement quite a few of those forms and has at the same time left a lot of space in the project planning for new ideas about how to implement responsible research and innovation in practice. The project is organized so that a lot of different methods are brought into the mix: user involvement, stakeholder dialogue, lead user involvement, and more. We lead and support several of these methods, but in the middle of all this my main focus is on facilitating dialogue internal to the consortium about how RRI is to be understood in the context of the particular development ambitions of the project. This can be approached in different ways, of course. At the point where I got onboard the project, the consortium had already paid quite a bit of attention to the European Commission’s interpretation of RRI, i.e. the RRI ‘keys’ (public engagement, ethics, gender, open access, and science education). And a lot of the work we do follows up on that.
What are your thoughts about the ethical standards?
But I also see our role as looking beyond compliance with the keys towards issues of responsibility that are specific to this project. In this respect we are very inspired by Arizona State University’s program for Socio-Technical Integration Research (STIR). The Council of Coaches is about producing a virtual coaching software. So perhaps it would be relevant to look at the ethical standards that human coaches must live up to and ask ourselves if and how the program ought to live up to the same standards. This is just one example of how we try to facilitate (or ‘stir’) reflection in the consortium and how we try to move from the sometimes very abstract to the immediately concrete and practical. Participating in the project in this role is really teaching us something about how to work in a very hands-on way with RRI at the project level, and I think we are very fortunate to be given the opportunity to work with this extremely competent and open-minded consortium of people.
Do you envisage strengthening your profile in this project?
No doubt, the lessons learned here will help to strengthen our own RRI consultancy practice as well.
A new member of DBT that we met is Sita Ramchandra Kotnis, who hold an MA in Anthropology and is a PhD candidate.
Sita, how has RRI influenced you?
I gate-crashed both in mid-February, where the RRI Vision had just been launched, and since then it’s been full-on learning by doing – working my way down the engine room of the Council of Coaches project and into the DBT-way of thinking RRI while simultaneously trying to be strategically visionary, methodologically creative, empirically meticulous, and completely calm. So, I sleep quite sound at night.
What will your main activities be at DBT?
At the DBT I will be chiefly working with health-related technology and bioethical questions. In my previous research, I have been specializing in new and emerging technologies, particularly within the so-called new biological sciences-complex (e.g. neuroscience, synthetic biology, psychiatric genetics, functional neuroimaging). I am particularly interested in how new possibilities of understanding and intervening in lived life, and life itself on many levels, frame and influence our notions of identity, self and society. Furthermore, I have a keen interest in the prospects and perils posed by these technologies in relation to questions of responsibility, (generic and mental) health and quality of life, and how they influence and inform more analogue approaches to ‘work on the self’ such as mindfulness, psychology and psychoanalysis.
Finally, please tell us what is the Council of Coaches project for you
For me the Council of Coaches project is a very unique opportunity to deepen my understanding of these matters in yet a new direction and from a new angle. I find the project very interesting, very ambitious – and very fun! Am looking forward to getting this baby further up and running 😉
We then met with Magnus Andersson, who is a student in Techno-Anthropology and intern at DBT.
Magnus, please tell us some things about you.
I have been a part of the Danish Board of Technology Foundation as an intern since January 2018 where I also joined the Council of Coaches project. I study on the side where I am currently in the process of writing my Bachelor thesis about Responsible Research and Innovation (surprise!). My study, Techno-Anthropology examines the relations between human and technology and how those relations impacts on society.
What are your key interests?
My key interests are 1) the question on how to develop responsible technology and 2) how to break down the barrier of incommensurability in processes of innovation – that means shaping frameworks for different academic disciplines to talk, discuss, and develop in a common language.
What about the Council of Coaches project?
Council of Coaches has put upon its shoulders to do all these things by having RRI as a key feature in the project, and therefore the project is extremely interesting and valuable to me. The DBT team that I am a part of in COUCH, and works side by side with, are primarily working as a methodology-development team for RRI in the concrete project of COUCH. We develop and execute methods for defining RRI in this project, after which we secure implementation of RRI. That means we work as a unit, exploiting our different mindsets to develop ideas together. I see my role in this project as an active co-facilitator of responsible research and innovation, and I am grateful to be a part of it.
Last but not least, was Bjørn Bedsted, the Deputy Director of DBT, who holds an MA in Anthropology. Bjørn has extensive experience with hatching methods in areas of citizen and stakeholder engagement processes and strategic project management. He has a knack for facilitating informed and democratic cooperation between citizens, stakeholders, experts and decisionmakers in developing visions and approaches as well as finding solutions for societal challenges. Bjørn has directed multiple projects, nationally and internationally, on subjects such as responsible research and innovation, IT, climate adaption and GMO.
Bjørn, what do you envision to demonstrate in the Council of Coaches project?
In the Council of Coaches project, he hopes to demonstrate how an RRI approach to ICT health tech development can add value to the innovation process and help deliver results that differ from those of the more traditional procedures for user involvement.
Rasmus, Sita, Magnus and Bjørn, it was greating talking to you.