Reflexive, Relevant and Interactive: a STEM student-centred pedagogical approach for Responsible Research and Innovation (RRI) training in Higher Education

Bénédicte A. M. Brahic, Shijie Miao, Simon Webb, Alison Harvey

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Background: Whilst Responsible Research and Innovation (RRI) principles are increasingly informing and shaping Science, Technology, Engineering and Maths (STEM) research narratives and practices, the training of higher education (HE) STEM students in RRI is still developing, creating a mismatch between training provision and sector practices and expectations.
Purpose: Training of HE STEM students in RRI principles is a key component of the long-term changes RRI frameworks hope to achieve. However, little is known about PG students’ awareness of, perceptions of and attitudes towards RRI, despite the pedagogical implications. This paper offers grounded insights and recommendations to shape this emerging area of pedagogical research and practice.
Sample: Forty-nine postgraduate STEM students with a range of nationalities enrolled in six UK higher education institutions. Most students had not received prior formal RRI training, although a small number of students who had received some RRI training were selected for comparative purposes.
Design and methods: An exploratory, small-scale student-led mixed-methods study that investigated PG STEM students’ engagements with RRI. Key objectives were to: assess awareness and knowledge base; explore attitudes towards RRI; gauge the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on RRI engagement; identify student preferences in relation to RRI training.
Results: The data points to the importance of individual characteristics and cultural backgrounds in shaping students’ engagement with RRI, as well as the significance of the context of student engagement with RRI. Although generally unaware of formal RRI frameworks, respondents provided examples of RRI that were drawn from national/cultural contexts. The perceived relevance of RRI varied with training level (Masters’ or PhD). A preference for interactive training in RRI was expressed, with some students commenting on the challenge of becoming reflexive practitioners.
Conclusions: This study provides important evidence to inform the pedagogical approach to RRI in HE STEM training, which authors argue ought to be supported, reflexive, relevant, and interactive.

Original languageEnglish
JournalResearch in Science and Technological Education
Early online date4 Jan 2024
Publication statusE-pub ahead of print - 4 Jan 2024


  • Student-centred pedagogy
  • Responsible research and innovation
  • Higher education
  • Postgraduate science courses


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