The need for considering societal impacts of EU security research has been acknowledged on many occasions by different actors. The problem though is that in traditional thinking, societal impacts are reduced to side effects of instrumental (technological and legal) security measures. This binary thinking has to be overcome. It should and can be demonstrated that societal dimensions of security research taken into account from the very beginning of the “design process” can increase the variety pool of feasible solutions. Starting from a synthesis of state of the art discussions on societal security, we will identify best practice cases exploring and assessing societal impacts of science and technology in the security domain and beyond, and carefully analyse their structural properties. This will be done in a multidisciplinary fashion from different perspectives, including end-users, stakeholders, researchers, policy-makers and NGOs. Bringing together these different perspectives in a series of workshops will create the basis for the development of a tool and a strategy for the sustainable implementation of societal impacts in future EU research activities in the field of security.
Smart security research for top security solutions
Assessing the impact of security research from different perspectives will ensure that the security industry is producing products and services in line with society's actual needs.
There is no doubt that security needs are increasing worldwide. However, it is important to ensure that the security industry is producing solutions that meet citizens' needs, and that research in the field is channelled with this premise in mind. This was the aim of the EU-funded project ASSERT(Assessing security research: Tools and methodologies to measure societal impact).
To achieve this, the project considered important tools such as social impact assessment, constructive technology assessment and privacy/surveillance impact assessment. It looked at the stages of research projects in the field, noting the importance of considering societal impacts to guide researchers and evaluating exploitable results. This was achieved through expert workshops focused on requirements involved in impact assessment mechanisms within the field of security research.
The project team also built a database of experts to foster exchanges on the topic beyond the lifetime of the project, in addition to offering training material online to direct researchers. A key project result is the development of an online assessment tool for determining societal impact, which is expected to guide researchers in evaluating their research efforts and goals.
Another key result is the creation of the ASSERT masterclass of societal impact assessment that provides an interactive context for stakeholders (researchers, academics, policymakers, evaluators) to advance impact assessments in security research.
Overall, the project's results are expected to prove very useful not only to researchers, but also to evaluators of future security research proposals and to policymakers who implement research programmes. Cultural, political, environmental, health and privacy issues – all part of the societal impact assessment – will now be more properly integrated into security solutions emerging from Europe.