The European Union encourages science education to orient towards the concept of Responsible Research and Innovation (RRI), i.e. socially and ethically sensitive and inclusive processes of science and technology. RRI is a major cross-cutting issue of the Horizon 2020 programme and a key concept in calls related to science education. Through a number of EU-funded initiatives such as IRRESISTIBLE, RRI is likely to have a substantial influence in teacher professional development and school science across Europe.

We all in the IRRESISTIBLE team have worked for three years to contextualise RRI for science classrooms at primary and secondary levels. Along the project we have learned to see that the concept of RRI seems to contain ideas similar to several more established approaches in science education – including Nature of Science (NoS) teaching and learning. Like NOS, also RRI aims to help students understand how science works and appreciate science as a key contributor to society. Yet, RRI entails a specific emphasis on deep engagement of the public and different societal actors in the processes of research and innovation, aiming at promoting the responsiveness, ethical acceptability, sustainability and societal desirability of these processes. These societal concerns bring a new layer to current NOS approaches.

Basing on the experiences of the IRRESISTIBLE project, which brought teachers, scientific researchers, science educators and science exhibition experts together to develop novel approaches for RRI teaching and learning, we are currently analyzing the educational implications of the RRI policy and goals in relation to the ideas of NoS teaching and learning. The IRRESISTIBLE modules illustrate the opportunities and challenges RRI may bring to NoS-focused science education.

We argue that due to the emerging influence and the novelty of RRI as an educational objective, discussing its connections to more mature concepts and trends of science education may facilitate the incorporation of RRI in curricula and classrooms. RRI must be linked with pedagogical themes teachers and curriculum developers are already familiar with, such as NoS. We discuss examples on how RRI can be integrated in science classes by instructional methods such as scenario-based learning, role-play or student-curated exhibits. Teachers may create environments where students take active parts, discuss, judge, argue, value, and learn RRI while learning scientific phenomena. Another aim of this work is to better understand the potential implications of RRI to research on science education.

The relationship between RRI and NoS will be discussed in the Symposium on Nature of Science in Science Education in Limerick, Oct 26th-28th 2016.