The aim of the project is to design, co-produce and provide a conceptual framework for including the more-than-human world (animals, plants, soil, water, land etc.) within responsible research and innovation (RRI). The implementation of RRI by researchers ensures that research and its impacts are opened up to broader deliberation, engagement and debate in an inclusive manner, and enables the complexities and uncertainties of research to be revealed through involvement with those impacted by the research.
A case study focussing on the deployment of biochar will be used to test the suitability and further develop the conceptual framework. Biochar is an ideal case study as it is a ‘new technology’ that is currently being investigated for its greenhouse gas removal potential at scale and which has a direct impact on the more-than-human world throughout its lifecycle.
The development of this RRI conceptual framework will improve research practice and build capacity within environmental social science. Including the more-than-human world will lead to a more environmentally conscious RRI framework, enabling researchers to better deal with current and future environmental challenges. This type of RRI framework is needed so researchers can negotiate conflicts between environmental challenges and human priorities, thereby ensuring sustainable futures for the planet and its inhabitants.
The project adopts a novel approach by bringing together a social scientist and a soil scientist who will lead the development of the conceptual framework, whilst also being co-designed by those outside of the academy. This enables the project to bridge the divide within academia whilst also bringing in and engaging with the under-valued voices and agencies of alternative expertise. Rather than RRI being based on scientific understandings and knowledge alone, this project brings social science to the fore to ensure an inclusive and collaborative knowledge base underpins the conceptual framework.
This UK focused project includes academics, individuals from Government Departments and Local Authorities, research funders, agricultural and forestry communities, environmental NGOs, the biochar community, and an artist. These diverse knowledge-holders ensure different knowledges and perspectives are feeding into the project.
All three of the ACCESS Guiding Principles are embedded within the project. These are Environmental Sustainability; Equality, Diversity and Inclusion; and Knowledge Co-Production. These will be reflected upon as the project progresses and we will share what we learn.
Catherine talks about her project to Gareth Johnson for The Exchanges Discourse Podcast. The series focuses on early career publishing in academia. In this episode Catherine talks about her research projects and recent papers