The ASSERT toolkit builds upon work on societal impact of security research, including measures included in the European Union’s Framework 7 Security Research Programme.
Under the Seventh Framework Programme for Research (FP7) 2007-2013, the European Commission has made EUR 1.4 billion specifically available for Security Research. The European Commission’s Directorate General Enterprise organised a workshop on societal security in R&D in July 2010 in response to a consensus that the Framework 7 Security Research Programme was at a key point in its lifecycle. A report by the European Security Research & Innovation Forum (ESRIF) highlighted the importance of a holistic understanding of European security, including the security of society and rigorous social engagement.
As a result of that report the Societal Impacts of Security Technologies group was established in 201. The role of the group was to bring together experts from security, industry, academia, the NGO and policy communities to ensure an adequate understanding of what was being proposed under European security research programmes, and to understand potential undesirable impacts. Key concerns included citizen rights, research ethics, societal relevance and security technologies and civil liberties inside and outside the EU. The group concluded that existing ethical review structures in place under the FP7 research protocol focused on a narrow range of specific issues, and not the wider societal issues that often arise in security research. In its report, the group recommended that:
- societal impact assessment must start at the programme level, and be addressed in work programmes and texts
- security research is inseparable from societal impact, therefore there should be formal consideration of social impact in projects, up to dedicated work packages for particularly sensitive topics
- the assistance of civil society experts should be sought to review the Work Programme
- sensitive topics should be clearly designated as such within the Work Programme
- there should be a clear narrative of the importance of compliance with legal and regulatory frameworks both for research projects, and the later implementation of any outputs
- DG ENTR should provide training and education for current and future project teams, and project officers, in relation to the challenges of developing technologies with potentially negative social consequences
- further work should be undertaken to develop a toolkit for societal impact assessment.
The Societal Impacts Group also developed a checklist for security R&D. This was included in “Impact” section of FP7 proposals, however proposals were not formally assessed on the answers to these questions.
Ensuring security research meets the needs of society
- What documented societal need(s) does the proposed research address? (e.g. life, liberty, health, employment, property, environment, values).
- How will the research outputs meet these needs? How will this be demonstrated? How will the level of societal acceptance be addressed?
- What threats to society does the research address? (e.g. crime, terrorism, pandemic, natural and man-made disasters, etc).
- How is the proposed research appropriate to address these threats?
Ensuring security research benefits society
- What segment(s) of society will benefit from the increased security as a result of the proposed research?
- How will society as a whole benefit from the proposed research?
- Are there other European social values that are enhanced by the proposed research, e.g. public accountability and transparency; strengthened community engagement, human dignity, good governance, social and territorial cohesion, sustainable development etc?
Ensuring security research does not have negative impacts on society
- If implemented, how could the research have a negative impact on the rights and values enshrined in the Treaties (e.g. freedom of association, freedom of expression, protection of personal dignity, privacy and data protection etc.)?
- If implemented, how could the research impact disproportionately upon specific groups or unduly discriminate against them?
- What specific measures will be taken to ensure that the research outcomes comply with the European Charter of Fundamental Rights and to mitigate against any of the negative impacts described above?