Ark of Inquiry – Stimulating science education

In this section we will briefly discuss how the Ark of Inquiry project has defined and made sense of RRI and show how we have integrated RRI in different aspect of the project.

Ark of Inquiry project focusses explicitly on one of the core 6 elements of RRI, namely science education, as a chance to integrate all previously mentioned RRI aspects. Science education as a key to promote RRI has been usually understood as activities that aim at promoting an interest in science education, in particular among young people, and the involvement of practices and institutions that organise such activities (science centres and museums, research institutions, etc.) (European Commission, 2015)1.

Ark of Inquiry project aims to raise awareness of pupils to RRI by promoting an interest in science through inquiry learning. Ark of Inquiry collects carefully selected, existing inquiry activities that engage pupils in doing science. Therefore, Ark of Inquiry can be considered a science education project. Science education is a special area within RRI, as all beneficiaries of the RRI process can act as both researchers and innovators. The project team of Ark of Inquiry already forms a sample community of this by involving institutions who organize science- and research-related activities (staff of science centres and museums, academic researchers, science educators and communicators).

The Ark of Inquiry seeks to establish community including researchers (both science practitioners and educational researchers), teachers, pupils and parents who all are invited to join an open dialogue about science. They can learn from each other and share experiences.

In the context of the Ark of Inquiry RRI is defined as

“the attitude and ability to reflect on, communicate and discuss processes and outcomes of inquiry in terms of its relevance, consequences and ethics for oneself, others and society. “ (see more in Deliverable 1.2)

In this definition, three main RRI actions are mentioned: reflection, communication, and discussion. The act of reflection is dedicated to developing the attitude and ability needed to individually think through the relevance, consequences and ethical issues surrounding inquiry and research process. The act of communication refers to the attitude and ability needed to present and explain the relevance, consequences and ethical issues of inquiry to an audience. And the act of discussion refers to the attitude and ability needed to question the relevance, consequences and ethics of processes and outcomes of inquiry with an audience (see more information in Deliverable 1.3)

RRI is integrated into many aspects of the project. RRI forms a part of:

  • the inquiry proficiency framework

The framework shows how inquiry activities can be categorized so that a learner’s inquiry capabilities (e.g. basic, advanced, expert) match the level of challenge offered by the inquiry activity. Matching a learner to an appropriate inquiry activity is required to effectively facilitate the improvement of inquiry skills and RRI awareness across a wide variety of pupils (more information can be found in Deliverable 1.1).

  • the evaluation framework

The central goal of the evaluation system is to follow and evaluate learners’ development in their inquiry proficiency, scientific and RRI awareness (more information can be found in Deliverable 1.2).

  • the award system

The central goal of the award system in the Ark of Inquiry is to stimulate and promote RRI skills and to challenge pupils to become responsible researchers and innovators (more information can be found in Deliverable 1.3)

Additionally, several support systems are foreseen for teachers that will gradually expand pupils’ inclination to develop RRI activities that consist of reflection, communication and discussion and hence engage them in Responsible Research and Innovation. Support systems aim to facilitate inquiry learning and awareness of RRI by aligning the framework of inquiry proficiency with other key works of the project (more information can be found in Deliverable 1.4).  Support systems include training and web-based materials with special focus on RRI. (See more information in Deliverable 4.1 and upcoming Deliverable 4.2)

RRI is also one of the recommended criteria for selecting the inquiry activities. Inquiry activities that foresee several moments of presentation and discussion with peers, experts and/or stakeholders (wide audience) during more than one inquiry phase promote RRI more than inquiry activities that only report findings to the learner and teacher (small audience). See more information in Deliverable 2.1.

In other words, the project’s ambition is to translate and demonstrate the abstract term “RRI” into everyday real life educational activities and put it into practice in formal and informal learning environments. Within this scope the involvement of scientists, researchers and educators from research institutions, science centres and museums is vital. Collaborating with the community of teacher educators and school teachers along with their pupils, respectively, will connect formal learning settings and curricula with informal learning environments, like museums and science centres, so that pupils can take part in engaging learning activities outside schools and learn first-hand how science works. See more information about supportive communities in Deliverable 3.1 and upcoming Deliverable 3.2.

1European Commission (2015) Indicators for promoting and monitoring responsible research and innovation. – Report from the Expert Group on Policy Indicators for Responsible Research and Innovation, DG Research and Innovation, June 2015 Retrieved from