“I am Primarily Paid for Publishing ...” The Narrative Framing of Societal Responsibilities in Academic Life Science Research

Veröffentlichungen: Beitrag in FachzeitschriftArtikelPeer Reviewed


Building on group discussions and interviews with life science researchers in Austria, this paper analyses the narratives that researchers use in describing what they feel responsible for, with a particular focus on how they perceive the societal responsibilities of their research. Our analysis shows that the core narratives used by the life scientists participating in this study continue to be informed by the linear model of innovation. This makes it challenging for more complex innovation models (such as Responsible Research and Innovation (RRI)) to gain ground in how researchers make sense of and conduct their research.
Furthermore, the paper shows that the life scientists were not easily able to imagine specific practices that would address broader societal concerns and thus found it hard to integrate the latter into their core responsibilities. Linked to this, researchers saw institutional reward structures (e.g. evaluations, contractual commitments) as strongly focused on scientific excellence (“I am primarily paid for publishing ...”). Thus, they saw reward structures as competing with – rather than incentivising – broader notions of societal responsibility. This narrative framing of societal responsibilities is indicative of a structural marginalisation of responsibility practices and explains the claim, made by many researchers in our sample, that they cannot afford to spend time on such practices.
The paper thus concludes that the core ideas of RRI stand in tension with predominant narrative and institutional infrastructures that researchers draw on to attribute meaning to their research practices. This suggests that scientific institutions (like universities, professional communities or funding institutions) still have a core role to play in providing new and context-specific narratives as well as new forms of valuing responsibility practices.
Seiten (von - bis)1569–1593
FachzeitschriftScience and Engineering Ethics
PublikationsstatusVeröffentlicht - Juni 2020

ÖFOS 2012

  • 509017 Wissenschaftsforschung