Beyond ‘Naughty or Nice’: Defence research and responsible innovation. The Guardian. December 2014.
Published on Christmas Eve, this essay explores how the defence industry’s contribution to ‘green energy’ programs raises questions about how to support responsible innovation’s large challenges.
It is harder than it first appears to shoehorn a festive theme into a piece about the military industrial complex. The nearest thing I could reasonably find was Time Magazine’s “25 Best Inventions of 2014”, published last month. The list reads halfway between requests for Santa – including a “smart cooler” replete with blender, USB charger, and Bluetooth speaker – and potential Nobel prize winning endeavours. Nestled in among the selfie-sticks and the Indian Space Agency’s Mangalyaan Mars Mission was US defence company Lockheed Martin who, back in October, had announced a breakthrough in nuclear fusion research, provisionally enabling wide-scale renewable “clean” energy
The story – and its reception by the media – raises interesting and difficult questions about the nature and regulatory environment around responsible research and innovation. As Jack Stilgoe wrote last week, responsible innovation has arisen in policy discussions, in “recognition of the need for scientists and innovators to take more care of the futures that they help create”. The concept is achieving institutional and political traction, with a new journal, a new hub at UCL; and the Rome Declaration, launched at the European Commission calls on European institutions, member states, organisations and civil society to make responsible innovation a central objective.