Without canapés and champagne, but with self-reflective questions, AFINO’s first half of their journey has been officially marked and put under the microscope.

– Are we on the right track, asked centre director Siri Granum Carson, when she welcomed AFINO’s work package leaders and research project leaders to a summary in Bergen.
Two and a half years have passed since AFINO had its kick-off in Trondheim. Halfway in the project period, the AFINO leaders were asked to give their verdict on how this is going.
To bring in an external eye on the progress, professor Tsjalling Swierstra from the University of Maastricht was invited. He is also a part of the international advisory board for AFINO.

Tsjalling Swierstra at AFINO midlife event
Many interesting inputs on the work in AFINO from Tsjalling Swierstra at the midlife meeting in Bergen. Swierstra is a Professor at the University of Maastricht and part of AFINO’s international advisory board. Photo: Eva Hilde Murvold.

No praise, but..
With a slightly humorous side glimpse, the Dutch professor started his presentation to underline that he absolutely would not appraise the so-far activity in AFINO.
– An appraisal would require more thorough and intersubjective preparations besides reading the blog. And beside I am far too envious on what you are doing to be sufficient detached for a fair appraisal, he said.
More serious he highlighted that the size, the diversity of projects, the learning platform AFINO Research School, and the enthusiasm of collaborators are strong features of the AFINO network.

Midlife event. Giovanni De Grandis, Arnt Fløysand, Silje Marie Svartefoss
During the meeting, group assignments were given where participants had to solve and present solutions on this. From left, Giovanni De Grandis (NTNU / AFINO), Arnt Fløysand (HVL) and Silje Marie Svartefoss (NIFU).
Photo: Eva Hilde Murvold.
Game at midlife meeting
Matthias Kaiser (UiB) is presenting a most creative solution on behalf of his group at the meeting for the improvised jury: Tsjalling Swierstra (UM), Eva H. Murvold (NTNU / AFINO) and Bjørn Bedsted (DBT). Photo: Siri Granum Carson

Pros and cons
In preparation for the midlife event in Bergen, the work package leaders and project leaders were challenged to share what they so far have experienced as positive and negative in their work in AFINO.

AFINOs centre coordinator Giovanni De Grandis led the session, and presented a wide range of responds to his questions.
Internal cross-fertilization, networking, experiments with new activities and ideas, AFINO summer school, communication through website and external publications were mentioned, among more, as positive outcomes.

On the more challenging side, surprisingly few dwelt upon the past.
The comments were more directed ahead. Among the comments were these challenges: stay in tune with RRI researchers, build capacity to sustain a broader network, acknowledge and tackle the limits of current thinking on RRI, explore new models of courses and the transdisciplinary features of RRI and CSR, give AFINO a stronger identity, how to bring the knowledge of RI to society, and the recent minister decision about dissolving the board of RCN.

The dark cloud
This last point was also included in the introduction, held by centre director Siri Granum Carson, touching on the big question mark which the whole of research Norway is currently concerned with:
– How will the situation with the Norwegian Research Council (NRC) affect the continuation of AFINO?
No answers are given yet, but the Professor Swierstra gave his listeners something to dwell upon, facing the situation:

Siri Granum Carson, centre director AFINO
A high level of enthusiasm and activity in AFINO delights the centre director Siri Granum Carson. At the meeting in Bergen, the news from the Government and the NRC also were on the director’s agenda. How will this affect AFINO in the future? Photo: Eva Hilde Murvold

– The success of RRI strongly correlates with external factors, like ideological dominance of the state or the market. RRI is still largely dependent on government funding. How can we make RRI more robust in a sometimes unwelcoming environment? And why is RRI so rarely linked to political struggles?

Carson pointed out that corona has made things more complicated for AFINO in most of its existence so far.
– This still has not hindered a high level of activity and enthusiasm in the network. I am very glad to see that connections have been made and new collaborations started without my knowledge of it – collaborations that would not have happened were it not for AFINO, she underlines.

The AFINO midlife meeting took place in Bergen 19th May 2022, with invited participants as explained in the text. The midlife event was followed up by a workshop on public engagement organized by AFINO in partnership with the Danish Board of Technology (DBT).
Read more on this later on AFINO’s website.

Featured image: Siri Granum Carson (NTNU / AFINO), Erik Thorstensen (OsloMet) and Anne Blanchard (UiB) having fun during the group work at the meeting in Bergen. Photo: Eva H. Murvold