– One of the most important objectives of the AFINO Research School has been to build a supportive community of early career researchers interested in RRI. Now we can see that this is happening.

Yes, they do have plums in Hardanger. Even outside Jonatunet, where the 2023 AFINO Autumn School was held.
Yes, they do have plums in Hardanger. Even outside Jonatunet, where the 2023 AFINO Autumn School was held.

The statement comes from Anne Blanchard, leader of the research school in AFINO. In September, she welcomed to the third research school, hosted by AFINO.
Once again the surroundings could have been worth the travel alone, as nearly a week-long school was located in Jondal, an idyllic village with the glacier Folgefonna in the east and Hardangerfjorden at the west side. But there was of course more to it.

AFINO Research School leader, Anne Blanchard i the middle. On the right, Natalia Doloisio. From left, Joaquin Zenteno Hopp and Tanguy Sandré.

Meeting the RRI-needs
The 2023 AFINO Autumn School was held with the main topic “Reinventing RRI”. Research school-leader Anne Blanchard explains that the theme was developed on the basis of the interests of the participants:
– We follow tightly the needs of the participants. What are the topics that they want to talk about and reflect on when they work with Responsible Research and Innovation (RRI)? The first summer school was about the challenges with RRI. From that summer school, a key challenge that came out clearly for many participants was – how can we do critical research that asks difficult and important questions within research policy and funding institutions that are often driven by ideals of fast, excellent, and productive science? That was the focus for the second summer school. After that summer school, last year in Oslo. At that summer school, I asked again what the participants needed. The interested remained on how to do critical, RRI-type research within such institutions – this is indeed a huge topic! – as well as how to do that in a creative way. That was how I ended up with this year’s theme: “Reinventing RRI” so that it allows for creativity and an attention to each participant’s research context, Anne explains.

Relaxed atmosphere
Quite a small group, but with very different backgrounds, joined the AFINO Autumn School in Jondal.
Some of the participants had attended several AFINO events previously. A few were newcomers.
– I am not sure it is fully necessary to come all the way to Jondal, but it is really nice to have a change of scenery and step back from the regular workplace and work to be able to do this reflections. I have found it very interesting to get to know people here. With the diversity in backgrounds, I get insight in different thought processes as well as expand my network, says Magnus Løkset, Master student at the University of Stavanger (UiS).

Magnus Løkset and Natalia Doloisio at the AFINO Research School in Jondal.
Magnus Løkset (UiS) and Natalia Doloisio (UVSQ/CEARC) participated at the AFINO Research School in Jondal.

Just like Magnus, Natalia Doloisio attended previous events organised by AFINO. Natalia however, came all the way from France and works as a post-doctoral fellow at UVSQ/CEARC.
– I found it really interesting the fact that this research school had a programme around RRI. I work with local communities in my research and from the beginning I have aimed to conduct my research in the most fair and friendly way. Starting this research, I was not aware of the concept of RRI and the four dimensions, – anticipation, inclusion, reflexivity and responsiveness. Now I see that this is very relevant and useful tools for me in my work, and this really can have an impact on my research, she says.

Aistė Klimašauskaitė (UiB) and Joaquin Zenteno Hopp (HVL) spotted behind.
Aistė Klimašauskaitė (UiB) and Joaquin Zenteno Hopp (HVL) spotted behind.

A re-gained spirit
After a few days in Jondal, research school leader, Anne concludes that the spirit of the first research school, held in Bekkjarvik in 2021, was found again – having a space to retreat and slow down the pace.
– I didn’t want to have a packed programme, but I shaped our four days here more like a retreat. We make room for the critical and important reflections, but in a relaxed, safe atmosphere. For instance, we had a half-day “walkshop”, and by bringing our reflections out in the nature, it created another dynamic, another depth, than sitting in a room. Discussions while walking, becomes of another nature, she says.

An RRI community
Another aspect, Anne values, is that AFINO research school activities creates friendships around a common interest for RRI among early career researchers.
– From the beginning of the research school it was an objective to build a supportive, caring RRI community, where people felt they had a space to share reflections and challenges, but also for each other. Now it is very nice to see that this is happening. Even those who are here for the first time get this feeling of connection and support – not being alone facing the challenges and frustrations of working on or with RRI. Even if we are scattered across Europe, we maintain contact, Anne tells.
– For me as a Masters student, this has been a positive experience. During this week I have been thinking that sometimes it would have been nice to have a whole different set of eyes to look at my project. With connection to people outside my university and in other disciplines, that will have implications to my research in the future, says the Masters-student Magnus from UiS.

Thanks for the experience!
Thanks for the experience!

The teaching team at the 2023 AFINO Autumn School consisted of:
Anne Blanchard (AFINO/UiB), Erik Thorstensen (ex-AFINO/Østfold University College), Jean-Paul Vanderlinden (CEARC), Anamika Chatterjee (Digital Life Norway/NTNU) and Thomas Völker (UiB).

Featured photo, at the top: Participants and teaching team on their way at a “walkshop”. Jonatunet, where the research school was held, in the background.

All photos: Eva H. Murvold