We contribute to the Responsible Research and Innovation (RRI) literature in two ways: (i) we consider how societal aspects are taken into account in research and innovation (R&I) activities in four fundamentally different scenarios, as opposed to analysing current practices; and (ii) put the emphasis on the political conditions of the interactions among the actors, as opposed to focussing on RRI principles and instruments. In the Kingdom of RRI citizens participate directly in decision-making processes; Fortress Europe depicts a libertarian system; Failed Democracy is a populist regime; while Benevolent Green Eurocrats describes a technocratically coordinated strong state. The scenarios offer novel insights into the nature and repercussions of possible policy problems, that is, efficacy; efficiency; legitimacy of R&I activities; societal involvement; equity; and freedom of research. Meaningful interactions between lay people and professional actors in an innovation system can be safeguarded even in the harshest ideological and political framework.
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