The value of “Mutual learning” when implementing RRI changes in an institution: The experiences from the Institut de Ciències del Mar (ICM-CSIC)

1: The consortium of the ResBios project includes experienced partners on the implementation of RRI practice on biosciences from 12 institutions of 11 different countries. Additionally, an Advisory Board gives support and advice. In the photo, representatives from the different institutions meet in person for the first time during the Kick-off of the project in Frascati, Italy (January 2020).

Since 1951 (first as “The Fisheries Research Institute”), the Institut de Ciències del Mar (ICM-CSIC) (1) of Barcelona has been at the fore-front of marine research, and through its extensive out-reach efforts, have actively engaged with Spanish and International communities, sharing this knowledge as well as their appreciation and respect of our world’s oceans. The ICM-CSIC is the largest marine research centre in Spain, and the first institute of its kind to receive the “Centre of Excellence Severo Ochoa Award”, in recognition of the high level of scientific leadership demonstrated by the institute, and the global impact of the research it conducts.

A core principle of the ICM-CSIC is that in the process of doing ground-breaking marine research, comes a great responsibility to share their findings with the society they share the ocean with, and with consideration of the values expressed in the Responsible Research and innovation (RRI) framework, it has become a necessity for modern research institutions to commit to working with their community, to strive for a more sustainable future. So, when the ICM-CSIC was invited to be part of a committed consortium devoted to embedding RRI practice in research institutions, and to play an active role within the ResBios consortium, there was no hesitation in our response, an emphatic “YES!”.

The ICM-CSIC, has had previous experiences in instilling many of the positive aspects of the RRI framework within its institution, however, this had been done mostly on a voluntary basis. By participating in the ResBios project, this presented an invaluable opportunity for the ICM-CSIC team to learn how to use RRI to instill long lasting positive change directly from experienced partners, with new, evidence-based approaches that would not only dedicate resources and time to improve aspects relating to gender, open access, public engagement, education, and ethics, but also to ensure its long-term institutionalization, and that these ideals would remain at the fore-front of research, not an afterthought.

The ICM-CSIC entered into the ResBios project as a “beginner” (understood within the terms of the project and the consortium) and their duties included working on the implementation of three RRI grounding actions (GA’s), focusing on: Gender Equality, Scientific Education, and Citizen engagement. Other partners worked on the implementation of other GA’s, these were either related to those that the ICM-CSIC were working on, or other aspects of the RRI framework. Overall, through a combined effort of all of the ResBios partners implementing GA’s, these institutions are involved with the implementation of all actions related to the 5 main aspects of RRI. As part of the wider ResBios consortium, some members had already participated in a previous project (STARBIOS2), a project that had previously worked within the RRI framework, and that the ResBios project was built upon. Consortium members who have experience of implementing similar GA’s within their institutes, as part of this previous project, acted as “mentors”, providing insight and advice of how best to implement these new ResBios actions.

Throughout the ResBios project, the ICM-CSIC has participated in numerous meetings and workshops organized by various members of the consortium, in a process called “Mutual Learning”. The sessions organized by project “mentors” were dedicated to explaining in depth specific aspects of the RRI framework. These mutual learning sessions allowed for a unique opportunity for the partners implementing RRI for the first time, all who have a similar level of experience working with this approach, to collaborate together and develop new methods on how to implement their grounding actions, but also a chance to learn from the past experience of “mentors”, to gain insights from their experiences and best practice, and to learn from their mistakes.

This Mutual Learning approach has been a crucial aspect of the ResBios project, especially during the difficult times caused by the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic, and because of these joint efforts, the ICM-CSIC has felt confident enough to overcome these road-blocks and become more resilient when implementing GA’s.

Although we are coming to the end of the ResBios journey, the ICM-CSIC, as well as the other partners that participated in the project, will continue to be part of a community who value RRI practice, and use what they have learnt to drive positive changes within the fields of bioscience. But mutual learning will continue to play a crucial role in shaping this new future.

2: The working group on Gender Equality met in person in Barcelona’s workshop after a period of online exchanges. Representatives from the Institut de Ciències del Mar (ICM-CSIC) and Demokritus University of Thrace (DUTH), implementing RRI Grounding Actions, and “mentors” representatives from the University of Gdansk (UG).


By Janire Salazar and Josep-Maria Gili (Institut de Ciències del Mar, ICM-CSIC), and Chris Styles (Project Officer, EUSEA)



Mutual learning for responsible biosciences

This is the blog of the ResBios project ( It aims to bring RRI institutional changes into some biosciences research organizations.