Photo: Onny Carr

Internationalisation and research funding are clearly important issues, but EU funding instruments, such as H2020, have not evolved significantly since the early years of the framework programmes. They are constrained by the internal structures of the EC and have not yet taken account of recent work on Responsible Research and innovation, mostly produced by EU-funded projects. This means that projects are not designed in a sustainable way. However, the spirit, rather than the operationalisation, of EC and other high-level thinking points to an alignment with sustainability. We are also now at a point where Responsible Research and Innovation is shifting from a normative to an empirical concept, and we need to provide examples of practical action to move things forward.

If NTNU is to take its own mission (knowledge for a better world) seriously, there needs to be a new kind of research culture characterised by:

• Openness
• Engagement with societal challenges, opinions and values
• Inter-disciplinary exchange
• Social justice, inclusion and equity
• Anticipation and awareness of impact
• Distributed responsibility for governance

Having such a culture is a pre-requisite for success in future EU and other funding bids, since research funding organisations will increasingly demand proposals which take account of these principles. Furthermore, it would be better for NTNU to be seen as a leader rather than a follower in this regard. And whilst ‘excellence’ is important, it is a construct that is currently based on an outdated paradigm in which ‘impact’ is largely internal to the research community.

Achieving a responsible research culture at NTNU does not mean that existing research is irresponsible. It does require, however, that researchers and research managers begin to change their practices, for instance:

• Identify common problem spaces across individual research projects
• Consider research problem space using an ecosystem approach, rather than as a linear progression from previous studies.
• Identify the entities, or stakeholders, within the ecosystem
• Work with stakeholders to identify desirable research questions and outcomes
• Reduce the dependence on publications and related metrics (e.g. impact factors based on citations)
• Identify new metrics for impact on society and the environment

This is a very brief summary of of very large topic, which we should continue to develop.

Dr Peter Gray (ILU) 17/03/17

NTNU sustainability and its future relationship to EU funding-PG170317a-2