A critical hermeneutic reflection on the paradigm-level assumptions underlying responsible innovation

Job Timmermans*, Vincent Blok

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleAcademicpeer-review

30 Citations (Scopus)


The current challenges of implementing responsible innovation (RI) can in part be traced back to the (implicit) assumptions behind the ways of thinking that ground the different pre-existing theories and approaches that are shared under the RI-umbrella. Achieving the ideals of RI, therefore not only requires a shift on an operational and systemic level but also at the paradigm-level. In order to develop a deeper understanding of this paradigm shift, this paper analyses the paradigm-level assumptions that are (implicitly) being brought forward by the different conceptualizations of RI. To this purpose it deploys (1) a pragmatic stance on paradigms that allows discerning ontological and axiological elements shared by the RI community and (2) an accompanying critical hermeneutic research approach that enables the profiling of paradigmatic beliefs and assumptions of accounts of RI. The research surfaces the distance of four salient RI accounts from the currently dominant techno-economic innovation paradigm RI seeks to shift. With this, our contribution helps to raise the self-awareness of the RI community about their presuppositions and the paradigm level barriers and enablers to reaching the RI ideal. This insight is needed for a successful transition to responsible research and innovation practices.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)4635-4666
Number of pages32
Issue numberS19
Early online date9 Jun 2018
Publication statusPublished - 2021


  • Critical hermeneutics
  • Paradigm level assumptions
  • Responsible innovation


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