Responsible Research and Innovation in Networked Quantum IT
NQIT (pronounced 'N-kit') stands for Networked Quantum Information Technologies. The NQIT Hub, part of the UK National Quantum Technology Programme, is led by the University of Oxford and involves 29 globally leading quantum centres and major companies, working together to realise an entirely new technology sector. The Hub's focus is on systems that can connect together to form flexible, scalable solutions for diverse applications.
These applications and Quantum Computing as a whole raise important societal and ethical issues which are as yet largely under-explored. As new quantum technologies develop, the political and social implications will continue to expand, escalate and transform. Therefore, it is essential to establish an open and transparent framework that allows these impacts to be widely debated. These discussions can address potential points of conflict and ambivalence before they become major issues. Responsible Research and Innovation (RRI) provides a set of transparent and interactive processes to involve researchers, innovators, and others working together towards acceptability, sustainabilty, and social desirability of research outcomes and products. In RRI, it is not just the “experts” who are invited to join in RRI discussions and activities, but a wide range of people, including the general public.
The RRI strand in NQIT will develop a broad scoping study and survey of the landscape of quantum technology in NQIT and the other QT Hubs. Specific issues will be investigated in greater depth, using a set of structured case studies.
From an RRI perspective we will attempt to reveal the social/economic transformation potential of quantum computing - the "disruptive" element which has come to be seen as an important component of progress and economic rejuvenation, yet which may have a more ambivalent reading in how lives, values and economics are re-shaped.
We will explore the connections between the physical laboratory work, the computing infrastructure and the projected applications. At the intersection of fundamental physics and engineering but driven by exciting opportunities for currently unachievable applications, the project is a rich enviroment for understanding the contemporary innovation process and how this flow might be achieved.
One focus will be on the application areas - what are the implications of these forms of secure computing, enhanced modelling and sensor fidelity? We would want to do various envisioning activities around these.
We will identify a broad range of stakeholders and set up events for them to collaborate in working out the broader implications of QC - including developing policy and regulation.
The lessons will be brought together into a flexible framework for RRI in NQIT , designed to give researchers and innovators the tools to continue to practice RRI throughout the rest of the project.
Engagement with stakeholders will be the key to uncovering the core issues for RRI in this context, and at the same time this engagement will build up awareness and capability about RRI amongst the researchers and innovators. In addition, training and dissemination in a more formal way will ensure that the practices of RRI reach all parts of the project and beyond.
Dialogue with the wider public is also fundamental to RRI, and is included in the work plan built on this strategy.
The RRI strategy for NQIT has been designed to reflect the needs of the Hub at each stage of the innovation lifecycle. Just as the technological outcomes of the Hubs will develop over time, so the RRI activities will adapt, so that in the later stages the capacity built up around the RRI Framework will become more of a self-sustaining process.