The Living Knowledge Network (LKN), a network originating with the creation of science shops in the Netherlands during the politically charged times of the 1960s and 70s has come together for a 7th time, this year in Dublin hosted by the Dublin Institute of Technology and the EnRRich Consortium. The EnRRich Consortium is a European Commission (EC) funded network of science shop members and similar structures across Europe who have come together to explore how the EC concept of responsible research and innovation might be incorporated into the curricula of higher education institutions in Europe. Some 260 persons from all parts of Europe and many other parts of the world including Canada, India, USA, Malaysia, Australia and Colombia. Rajesh Tandon and Budd Hall are supporting the EnRRich consortium as members of their Advisory Committee. Several observations are in order.
As the years have passed, the Living Knowledge Network/community/movement has broadened considerably from a gathering of science shop leaders, supporters and workers to a network of academics, community partners, government agencies, funders and others concerned with the broader mandate of knowledge and democracy. Numerous sessions on community based participatory research, Indigenous knowledge, policy creation, research ethics, pop-up urbanism, research impact, global networking, robotics peppered a rich programme also of stories from veterans of the science shop movement. The energy, the hope, the commitment to looking at the role of knowledge and its co-creation underscores the appropriateness of the concept of Living in the LKN title.
The movement has been able to grow over the years for several reasons. Most fundamental is growing global concern with strengthening the links between science and society in a world of academia that has shifted from the public good to the private good and from society to economy. Enabling this development in Europe has been the vision of the European Commission, a research and networking funding agency that has taken up the call of Science with and for Society in a robust and serious manner. Funding from the EC has enabled science shops and similar structures to multiply and deepen and in a practical manner has covered the costs for many to attend the Dublin #LK7Dub gathering.
The financial and political support of the EC also poses challenges. The concept of responsible research and innovation, is one coined by the EC as an umbrella term for the kinds of research that they feel best supports the vision of Science With and For Society. They have subsequently funded a range of project designed to socialise the term throughout Europe. In a way one could say that the EC has moved from supporting the already existent science shop movement to attempting to lead what they feel may be a wider and more inclusive movement under the RRI framework. This poses challenges as RRI is not a concept known at all outside of Europe and in fact is not at all well known within the broader European research communities. The LKN needs financial support and supports the underlying assumptions perhaps of RRI, but does the LKN concede its leadership in area of knowledge and democracy in this case to the whims and fashions of the EU bureaucracy? Or has the LKN succeeded in winning over the gnomes of Brussels to its democratic message? Stay tuned!