STEMskiller: Skill Set Map for Mentors of Early Career Researchers


Social, cultural, and environmental awareness/sustainable development: values, technology in society, and the researcher


Social, cultural, and environmental awareness can be considered to be part of a person’s understanding of the broader context in which they live, and educating mentees about the context in which they do their research. This can assist them not only in their daily lives in terms of possible improvement of interpersonal skills[1], but also such awareness can assist early career researchers in understanding how their research fits into the broader world—e.g., what social, cultural, or environmental problems they are trying to solve—thus assisting them in framing/positioning their research projects towards appropriate grants and funding opportunities and, ideally, in heightening their understanding of why they are devoting their studies and lives to a particular career path.

Increasingly, in a world facing issues such as climate change and pandemic virus outbreaks, progressive countries see tackling sustainable development challenges as essential to their futures and one sees this reflected in research initiatives such as the European Commission’s next round of research funding, Horizon Europe, which addresses such challenges in Pillar II (“Global Challenges and European Industrial Competitiveness”)[2] and the UNESCO Sustainable Development Goals,[3] which prompt researchers and institutions to request funding for related research activities.

Additionally, many institutions are making sustainable developed-related issues key to their strategic plans and/or have developed offices devoted to helping their institution address such issues, such as the MIT Office of Sustainability, which (at time of writing of this entry) include: low carbon campus, resilient ecosystems, material lifecycles, healthy people, and thriving networks.[4] 

[1] Hutchins, S., McDermott, P., Carolan, T., Gronowski, M., Fisher, A., & DeMay, M. (2013). ARI Research Note 2013-13: Interpersonal Skills Summary Report. Pages 6-12 provide a taxonomy as well as definitions of of interpersonal skills grouped into interpersonal communications skills, relationship building skills, peer leadership skills, and social/behavioral agility skills.

[2] European Commission. (2020). Developing Horizon Europe.

[3] UNESCO. (2015). UNESCO and Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs).

[4] MIT Office of Sustainability. (2020). Office of Sustainability.

Useful resources on Social, cultural, and environmental awareness:

Hutchins, S., McDermott, P., Carolan, T., Gronowski, M., Fisher, A., & DeMay, M. (2013). ARI Research Note 2013-13: Interpersonal Skills Summary Report.

In-depth literature review of the different kinds of interpersonal skills and analysis of methods used for training together with discussions of potential effectiveness. Defines “social/behavioral agility skills” as: Social perceptiveness, Self-presentation, Social influence, Adaptability/Flexibility (p. 7) with definitions of these (pp. 11-12). Regarding cultural and environmental awareness, these are placed under the category of “relationship building skills”: Team cooperation and coordination, Courtesy, Amicability, Trust, Dependability, Intercultural/Interpersonal sensitivity (empathy), Service orientation, Negotiation, Conflict Resolution (p. 6) with definitions of these provided as well (pp. 8-10) and “peer leadership skills (Acts as a role model, Helping others, Task leadership, Energizing others, Rewarding others, Controlling, Formal staffing, Informal staffing [p.7] with definitions of these on pp. 10-11).

Lukovics, M., Udvari, B., Nádas, N., & Fisher, E. (2019). Raising Awareness of Researchers-in-the-Making Toward Responsible Research and Innovation. Journal of the Knowledge Economy,10, 1558–1577.

Describes an attempt in Hungary to introduce early career researchers to responsible research and innovation concepts and why the authors feel teaching such concepts is important—particularly for the next generation of researchers.

Owen, R., Macnaghten, P. & Stilgoe, J. (2012). Responsible research and innovation: From science in society to science for society, with society. Science and Public Policy, 39, 751–760.

Provides a history of the concepts “responsible research” and “responsible research and innovation” (RRI) in the European Union (EU) context, noting that “seeks to go beyond what we do not want science and innovation to do—the well-known and well-documented preoccupation with characterising and managing unintended risks (the latter often through regulation)—but what we do want it to do. (p. 754)” RRI’s three emerging features are described and discussed: (1.) Science for society: Democratising the governance of intent, (2.) Science with society: Institutionalising responsiveness, and (3.) Reframing responsibility.

UNESCO. (2015). UNESCO and Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs).

Links to information about the SDGs adopted by the 70th session of the UN General Assembly. Goals include: (1.) No poverty, (2.) Zero hunger, (3.) Good health and well-being, (4.) Quality education, (5.) Gender equality, (6.) Clean water and sanitation, (7.) Affordable and clean energy, (8.) Decent work and economic growth, (9.) Industry, innovation, and infrastructure, (10.) Reduced inequalities, (11.) Sustainable cities and communities, (12.) Responsible consumption and production, (13.) Climate action, (14.) Life below water, (15.) Life on land, (16.) Peace, justice, and strong institutions, (17.) Partnerships for goals.


Peer Review: None

Table of contents:

4.5. Social, cultural, and environmental awareness/sustainable development: values, technology in society, and the researcher


Author: Stephanie Krueger

Peer Reviewer(s): None

Last Updated: October 28, 2021


Editor: Stephanie Krueger Last modified: 28.10. 2021 13:10