Throughout history, research and innovation have radically changed our society, giving rise to societies equipped with a certain level of scientific culture, capable of tackling new risks and participating in new ethical dilemmas, in turn generated by science and technology. Thus, in order for science to continue promoting the advance and improvement of humanity, it is essential to understand society as one of the leading actors of scientific activity. However, when the scientific capacity of citizens is limited, combined with the continuous advances taking place in science and technology, a rift appears between the scientific community and society which hinders the acquiring of said cultural level.

What is RRI?

For decades, many initiatives have endeavoured to reduce the gap between science and society. Responsible Research and Innovation (RRI) is therefore a governance focus of European research and innovation (R&I), reflected in programmes such as Horizon 2020 (2014-2020) and Horizon Europe (2021-2027), whose objective is to make society capable of debating on how science and technology can be used to improve the society of future generations.

Who participates in RRI?

RRI implies the participation of all actors: from the scientific community’s research personnel to the citizens themselves and including institutions, governments, the industrial and education sectors. At the end of the day, this diverse spectrum of actors implies a broader addressing of societal expectations, of ethical values, and of a science where greater account is taken of the needs of the real world.

RRI at the Biodonostia HRI

The Biogipuzkoa HRI has always developed myriad activities which, somehow, strive to bring transparent and quality science closer to society. In December 2018 and with the aim of starting to compile all of these activities in an orderly fashion, and also to determine the bottlenecks in several of the lines, with the backing of the Management the Biogipuzkoa HRI RRI Committee was created with the participation of a total of 10 members of different professional profile within the Institute:

    • Dra. Itziar Vergara, Scientific Director of the Biogipuzkoa HRI.
    • Dr. Ana Aiastui, Head of the Cell Culture, Histology and 3D Printing Platforms.
    • Dr. Olatz Arrizabalaga, Scientific Coordination.
    • Dr. Lorea Blázquez, Ikerbasque and Ramón y Cajal Principal Researcher of the Neurosciences Area (Neuromuscular Diseases Group).
    • Dr. Koldo García Etxeberria, Head of the Gastrointestinal Genetics Group.
    • Dr. María Muñoz Caffarel, Co-Leader of the Breast Cancer Research Group.
    • Dr. David Otaegui, Leader of the Multiple Sclerosis Research Group.
    • Dr. Matxus Perugorria, Ramón y Cajal Principal Researcher of the Liver and Gastrointestinal Diseases Area (Liver Diseases Research Group).
    • Dra. Amets Sáenz, Co-Leader of the Neuromuscular Diseases Research Group and Head of Training.
    • Dña. Maider San Torcuato, Innovation Management Technician (Innovation Support Unit).

Below are the documents on the Open Science Policy and Plan drawn up by the Biogipuzkoa HRI for the purposes of putting all of these concepts into practice.

Specific actions: key lines and activities of the Biogipuzkoa HRI

The European Commission (EC) has established a series of more specific pointers in the shape of six guidelines to foster uptake of the RRI approach.

Below is a description of the activities carried out by the Biogipuzkoa HRI in relation to each of these pointers:


The institutions must have an organisational structure capable of responding and adapting to changes and advances in research and innovation and must, in turn, promote shared responsibility among all actors.


Based on respecting fundamental rights and functioning according to the strictest ethical standards in order to guarantee results which are acceptable and relevant for society.

Gender equality

Promotes constant compliance with the gender aspect in research and innovation by means of gender balance in the teams and policy-making bodies.

    • Equality Commission
      The Biodonostia HRI, framed within the actions promoted by the Euraxess European Strategy, obtained the HRS4R Human Resources stamp of excellence in 2018.
      The Institute has shown special concern for guaranteeing equal opportunities between the men and women on its staff, developing policies for this purpose, which include extensive equality measures in areas as important as training, gender-related health and safety at work, life-work balance, etc.
      This line saw the creation of the Biodonostia HRI Equality Commission in 2019; here the Equality Plan 2020-2021 is the result of the work carried out by said Commission and by the Work Team in which the Centre Management has actively participated.
    • Biodonostia HRI Equality Plan
      In addition, several members of the Institute’s Equality Commission had a part in drawing up the Ikerbasque Equality Plan.
    • Breastfeeding room
      The Institute has a breastfeeding room for the exclusive use of women workers when required.
    • Gender equality in composition of the Bodies enabling the Governance, and in positions of responsibility at the Institute.
    •  Work-life Balance Plan at the Biodonostia HRI (Birth and Child Care).
    • New aspects of TI measures related to maternity/paternity.
    • HRS4R human resources strategy.
    • Recent activities related to gender equality in which the Biodonostia HRI has participated:
        • International Day of Women and Girls in Science / Emakumeak Zientzian:
        • ASEICA Women: The Spanish Association for Cancer Research has created a collaborative working group focused on highlighting and fostering the work of women cancer researchers in Spain. They have recently carried out activities such as these Take a look.
        • Women in Gastrointestinal Infections (GI): Dra. Matxus Perugorria as a Role Model in 2019.
        • Inspira STEAM Euskadi: Project to foster STEAM professions (Science, Technology, Engineering, Arts and Maths) among primary school students by means of the group mentoring technique in which several women researchers from the Biodonostia HRI have participated.
        • Donostia WeenINN Women and Science 2019.
        • África in 3D project in collaboration with the Women for Africa Foundation (MXA).
        • Science and Cinema: annual activity organised by the Filmoteca Vasca and the Donostia International Physics Center (DIPC). The Biodonostia HRI (Dr. María Muñoz Caffarel) and the Donostialdea IHO (Dr. Itziar Pérez Irazusta) participated in the 2021 edition.
Open Access, OA
Citizen participation

Collaborative research and innovation activities are carried out in which all actors participate with a view to fostering more diverse and inclusive science lending a voice to society’s concerns and expectations.

  • Participation of the Biodonostia HRI in the Onkologikoa Patients’ Committee.
  • Collaboration with the Senior Voluntary Association Nagusilan.
  • Crowdfunding campaign on the FECYT Precipita Platform: Africa in 3D.
  • Several meetings and seminars between research personnel and patients.
Science education

A fundamental element guaranteeing that those responsible for research and innovation in the future have the necessary knowledge and tools to carry out actions and to make better decisions.

  • Workshop on Exploring the Human Body: Scientific activity for 4th year Compulsory Secondary Education (ESO) students based on 5 theoretical-practical stations explaining the scientific and research activities carried out at the Biodonostia HRI. The stations are: 1) DNA; 2) Eukaryotic cells; 3) Tissues; 4) The Brain and 5) Reaction time, also using different instruments related to research: DNA model, microscope, histological samples, etc., so that the learning will translate into an experience and take root in their science education. 2020, 2019 (Mundaiz, Jesuitak e English School)
  • IV Prize by the Spanish Society of Physiological Sciences (SECF) to the best scientific dissemination initiative 2018-2020
  • Open Doors Day at Biodonostia HRI: Annual guided tours led by researchers from the Institute for students in the 2nd year of their Baccalaureate studies.
  • Specific Science Education workshops:
    • Ageing: (i) “Helduen Hitza” association for older people, and researchers Dr. David Otaegui and Dr. Itziar Vergara; (ii) “When I’m OLDER” station on Exploring the Human Body.
    • Amona’s Power: A workshop was organised as part of the Women and Girls in Science Programme 2020 to celebrate the figure of the adult woman as a transmitter of scientific culture.
  • Explanatory videos on COVID-19: Initiative involving the recording of several explanatory videos for citizens using simple language to explain different aspects of COVID-19.
  • Additional activities in which the Biodonostia HRI has participated in the framework of science education:

ORION Awards 2019

The Biogipuzkoa HRI participated in the “Responsible Research and Innovation (RRI) Health Awards”, organised and promoted by the Carlos III Health Institute (ISCIII) in the framework of the European project ORION (Open Responsible research and Innovation to further Outstanding kNowledge). These awards have the objective of recognising, promoting and supporting the work carried out by accredited Health Research Institutes (HRIs) in order to incorporate health-related RRI principles to their activity and projects.

For its part, the Biogipuzkoa HRI presented its candidature focused on citizen participation and science education. Said proposal highlights the continuous work carried out by the Institute to foster a scientific career among young people through training workshops where, as well as receiving theoretical training, they carry out experiments giving them an approximate idea of the typical activities involved in a researcher’s working day.

Within this candidature, stress was also placed on the relationship existing between different Research Groups at the Institute and various citizens associations with which similar educational activities are carried out to those organised for children. For this proposal, the workshops for children were chosen, as were those involving the members of an association for older people (Helduen Hitza) with whom activities were carried out related to Ageing, with the aim not only of bringing science closer to these people, but also of taking their opinions into account within the Institute’s Cross-Cutting Strategy on Ageing.

First RRI Committee project funded by Kutxa Fundazioa

In March 2021, the decision was announced regarding the Kutxa Fundazioa subsidies to promote and support submissions contributing to the cultural, scientific, social and economic development of a more just and sustainable society in Gipuzkoa by fostering critical capacity and collective commitment.

The Biogipuzkoa HRI, through its RRI Committee, requested, and received, funding for the project “SCIENTIFIC TRAINING IN HEALTH: Fostering the critical participation of citizens”. This represents yet another step forward in the Institute’s strategy to promote citizen participation and science education, which will be addressed thanks to the collaboration with Eusko Ikaskuntza’s Asmoz Foundation.

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