Socially responsible research – design, impact analysis, quality assurance (LeNa Shape)

Project description

The LeNa Shape project is funded under the BMBF program “Research for Sustainable Development – FONA3” and contributes to the BMBF “Sustainability in Science Initiative (SISI)”. It builds on the BMBF joint project “Sustainability Management for Non-University Research Institutions (LeNa)” completed in 2016. An important component of this project of the Fraunhofer-Gesellschaft, the Helmholtz Association, and the Leibniz Association was the development of a set of criteria for “socially responsible research,” which is intended to support scientists in their own reflection on the perception of such responsibility of research.

Against the background of changing expectations and demands on science in societal transformation processes, LeNa Shape examines for the first time for the principle of “socially responsible research” the motivational conditions of researchers, requirements on the quality or excellence of research and on the measurement of its effectiveness, as well as consequences for the design of political and organizational conditions for research.

The project consists of two modules: The LeNa Move module aims to promote awareness and implementation of the LeNa reflection framework in the scientific community. To this end, targeted and motivating formats are developed and applied that take into account concrete needs and institutional framework conditions of researchers and are intended to overcome obstacles with modern tools. In the LeNa Value module, advanced criteria for the quality of research (“excellence”) and a methodology (metrics and indicators) for analyzing the impact of research on the realization of a more sustainable global development will be worked out, taking into account the science theory and policy context.

ITAS cooperates in the Value module with the Fraunhofer Institute for Systems and Innovation Research (ISI), the Leibniz-Zentrum für Agrarlandschaftsforschung (ZALF), the Leibniz Centre for Tropical Marine Research (ZMT), the Lehrstuhl für Christliche Sozialethik at the LMU Munich, and the International Center for Ethics in the Sciences and Humanities at the University of Tübingen.

Based on literature research, expert interviews, and workshops, the following questions in particular will be addressed:

  • What is at the core of the definition and measurement of research quality – in terms of research process, results, and impact? What changes are taking place here?
  • What role does or should social responsibility play in this, what definition or conception and attribution of “responsibility” is used?
  • What consequences for the traditional understanding of excellence can be expected or are necessary if science more strongly emphasizes its social responsibility and implements it in the research process? To what extent would a context-specific (e.g., related to research topics, types, or disciplines) expansion of the concepts of quality and excellence be desirable? What institutional conditions would be required for this?
  • What does this mean for the role and understanding of “impact” as a quality criterion?
  • Are there conflicts between the principle of social responsibility and the current principle of excellence? What empirical evidence can be found for this?
  • What changes would be needed in the political or institutional framework in order to mitigate such conflicts at the individual level of researchers, the organizational level of research institutions, and at the level of research funding and evaluation?


Dipl.-Volksw. Jürgen Kopfmüller
Karlsruhe Institute of Technology (KIT)
Institute for Technology Assessment and Systems Analysis (ITAS)
P.O. Box 3640
76021 Karlsruhe

Tel.: +49 721 608-24570