Cross-Cutting Perspectives

This report deals with the cross-cutting implications of Epinet research into so-called data protection impact assessments (DPIAs). DPIAs are envisaged as important tools for assessing the “risks to the rights and freedoms” of data subjects under the new General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR), still under debate in the European Union. Part of the new Regulation, and part of a general trend in data protection governance, is a turn towards risk assessments and management. However, the concept of a “risk to a right” poses tough questions on the intersections of organisational management, policy, law, technology assessment and engineering: what does it mean, and how to implement it in practice? Epinet has analysed this question, and also arranged workshops to elucidate possible meanings of, and relations between risks and rights from the point of view of several relevant assessment practices. These include: data protection authorities, human rights law, data protection law, privacy scholarship, privacy impact assessors and critical (STS) studies of risk and governance. This document provides some of the main lessons learned by Epinet researchers in consultation with such relevant and concerned fields of practice.

 

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This text situates Epinet research in relation to the discourse on Responsible Research and Innovation (RRI), perceived as a new paradigm for achieving integration of assessments of science and technology into research, innovation and policy. Whereas Epinet research is not identical to RRI, there are several lessons to be drawn for RRI practitioners from the results gained in Epinet. These lessons especially pertain to what happens in practice, and to the relevant practices of assesment, but also to science and law, as they seek integration into research, innovation and policy. We point to three different entry-points for integration to take place: technoscience, interdisciplinarity, and law. We argue that frictions arise in practice, and especially in the concerned practices expected to integrate in different ways and at different levels of organisation. These frictions should be articulated as important occasions for deepening RRI as theoretical and practical-institutional project. In relative distinction to most prevailing analyses of RRI we argue that law is a resource, as-of-yet poorly articulated and utilised, for safeguarding and constituting relative autonomy and independence for assessment practices.

 

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This text aims to contribute to the articulation of some overarching tendencies at the levels of European governance of technosciences as studied by the Epinet project. It specifically targets the broader conditions under which different forms of assessments may integrate (or not) into broad networks shaping to address innovation for societal challenges in the European Union. It develops a concept of technoepistemic networks to account for main developments on the intersections of science and society across Europe. It argues that the technoepistemic networks increasingly conflate political and technoscientific aims, thereby undermining traditional sources of legitimacy, including those existing at national levels. This puts assessment practices (including recent efforts towards Responsible Research and Innovation), but also law and science, under increasing pressure. There is a need to think about and plan for the broader conditions under which innovation for societal challenges take place, including safeguarding the role of science, law and assessment practices.

 

Download the WP1 cross-cutting Report

Work Package 2 was designed to be an agency of observation and reflexivity in reference to the interdisciplinary innovation/technology assessments, i.e., the case studies conducted for EPINET [1]. We attended workshops and meetings and analysed documents produced by the study teams. We also conducted interviews with team members to hear about their expectations and reflections on the experience of working on those assessments [2]. Our focus has centred on the procedural conditions in carrying out this work, conditions we take to be indicative of the kinds of things that can and should be expected in bringing together expertise across disciplines and professions, not to mention, geographical locations. More specifically, we observe these conditions in reference to interdisciplinarity and integration being called upon to improve the culture of innovation and accountability in Europe [3].

The EPINET cases proceeded on the bases of common assumptions observed in the discourses on responsible innovation [4]. Those discourses focus on the turn toward futures and futuring, and what to expect of visions as key considerations in assessments. They focus on the integration of different groups and networks, of coming together to produce reflexive,responsive and anticipatory outcomes for deliberation. They evaluate institutions as part of their assessments, e.g., if structural and/or procedural changes are needed. And, they proceed on the assumption that efforts to govern complex systems should not be deterred by complexity.

 

Download the Observations and Reflexivity Policy Report