Socially responsible research processes for sustainability transformation: An integrated assessment framework
Assessing the manner in which research is conducted is a key mechanism for leveraging a transformation in sustainability. Scientific answers to current sustainability threats are reliant on research design, conduct and dissemination. Thus, the research process itself merits a full consideration of its responsibility toward societal goals and values. Although the responsibility of research to society has recently been raised in scientific discourse, a systematic framework to guide such considerations that can be applied in a self-reflective manner across disciplines is lacking. Informed by a literature review that revealed an emerging discussion, this paper suggests an assessment framework for socially responsible research processes that integrates eight criteria: (1) approach to complexity and uncertainty, (2) ethics, (3) interdisciplinarity, (4) integrative approach, (5) reflection on impacts, (6) transdisciplinarity, (7) transparency and (8) user orientation. These criteria, including their respective linkages and ambivalent meanings, are elucidated. Implementation challenges, application trade-offs and opportunities with respect to an enhanced shift toward societal responsibility in research processes are discussed.