Opening up the novel research and innovation evaluation imperative, “Do No Significant Harm”

Past Event
20 January 2022 15:00 (GMT)
20 January 2022 16:30 (GMT)

As part of aligning with the European Green Deal, a new evaluation criterion has been selectively included in the European Innovation Council and Pillar II programming of Horizon Europe. The criterion of “do no significant harm” (DNSH) references six long-term environmental goals, drawn from European Commission the EU regulation to establish a framework for sustainable investment (EU) 2020/852). Harm is proscribed as related to negative impacts on: Climate change mitigation, Climate change adaptation, Sustainable use and protection of water and marine resources, Circular economy, Pollution prevention and control, Protection and restoration of biodiversity and ecosystems.

Integration of this DNSH principle represents a novel and bold step for European innovation governance considerate of sustainability concerns. However, at present, guidance on how researchers would implement an accounting of harm, how reviewers might evaluate significance, how funders might determine acceptable or unacceptable harms across a portfolio projects, and many other questions remain open.

Our aim in this initiative is to create a space to open dialogue among researchers and research funders on what it means to operationalize the “do no significant harm” principle into research and innovation policies.

Ref: #25

Policy and governance for transformative change
Transformative Missions


Michael J. Bernstein
Michael J. Bernstein is a scientist at the AIT Austrian Institute of Technology and Assistant Research Professor at Arizona State University. He applies descriptive and participatory social science research methods to align research and innovation with long-term societal interests, like sustainability. Michael currently focuses on ethical assessment of new and emerging technologies for the EC-funded TechEthos project. In addition, he is developing foresight and strategic planning tools to support business innovation for social value (The Global KAITEKI Center, Arizona State University). From 2017-2019 he served as a work-package leader of an EC-funded project to assess and advance responsible research and innovation across European R&I funding (NewHoRRIzon). He has supported transdisciplinary urban sustainability (GLOCULL); staffed a participatory Technology Assessment (pTA) to inform U.S. Department of Energy decision-making about siting nuclear waste (ECAST); and evaluated science policy STEM education programs (SOtL). Michael has experience collaborating with formal and informal science and engineering educators, researchers, policy makers, businesses, and civil society organizations at local, national, and international levels. He has contributed to policy and evaluation initiatives on climate preparedness, resilience, and adaptation for the U.S. White House Council on Environmental Quality and the National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine.
Robert Smith
Robert Smith is a senior research fellow in the department of Science, Technology & Innovation Studies, School of Social & Political Science, University of Edinburgh. His research examines the social, political and policy dimensions of biological engineering, particularly the ways in which they are made and governed. He has projects examining the attempts of biologists to design organisms from scratch, the governance of gene drive technologies and the role of research funding organisations as a site for democratically governing science, technology and innovation.
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