The pace of change of emerging science and technology is creating complex issues for societies and their decision makers. Our research looks at the interface of science and technology with society to ensure that emerging science domains can proceed responsibly and deliver positive impacts for society.

The challenge

The rapid march of technological change

As the world becomes increasingly globalised, complex and fast paced, new science and technologies are rapidly changing our lives and the world around us. At the same time, societies are finding it increasingly difficult to understand the impacts of new and emerging science and to make decisions about what technologies to implement and regulate.

Emerging science domains, such as synthetic biology, precision health, robotics and artificial intelligence, have the potential to generate significant societal benefits and commercial opportunities and could help reinvent and create new industries for Australia. For this reason, CSIRO is investing in this emerging science through our Future Science Platforms.

However, such transformational research can also produce disruptive technologies and precipitate societal change and uncertainty, which raises significant ethical, social and regulatory challenges. If left unresolved, these challenges can hinder the progress and innovation required for this science to deliver benefits to society and to future generations.

Our response

Understanding science and technology in society

We have established a new research initiative, the Responsible Innovation (RI) Initiative, to examine the relationships between disruptive and emerging technologies and society.

The RI Initiative is a three year, $3.4 million social science research program that is running in parallel to our Future Science Platforms program. It will increase our understanding of the challenges for society that are emerging from the development of these new areas of science. In turn, it will support the design and development of the Future Science Platforms and inform other research teams in Australia and internationally.

The RI Initiative builds upon a strong base of existing social science research within CSIRO and seeks to build expertise in the domains of responsible innovation, science and technology studies and convergence science through cutting edge, peer-reviewed research.

The research will focus on three inter-related areas:

  • how to account for and manage the risks posed by emerging technologies
  • the nature of trust in emerging technologies in the community
  • how effective our institutions are at both seizing the opportunities presented by emerging technologies and managing their risks.

Funding is also being used to establish key research alliances with Australian universities to develop and deliver this research capacity. An initial $3.93 million research alliance with the Centre for Policy Futures at The University of Queensland has been established to bring expertise in the policy and regulatory aspects of disruptive technologies into the RI Initiative.

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