What can responsible science learn from co-design?

April 21st, 2022

Both fields are working toward a shared goal that incorporates the best of human ideas and technological solutions for sustainable outcomes.

Co-design with Indigenous people involves collaborative partnerships and pathways to involve Traditional Owners in the inception, development, and delivery of research. It describes a framework that respects kin-country relationships, ensures, and maintains free, prior and informed consent from local Elders, and requires an ongoing commitment to deliver mutually useful and useable science and impact.

CSIRO Responsible Innovation FSP researcher Dr Cathy Robinson was recently invited to speak at Liquid Interactive’s Future Led event in Brisbane on co-design.

Cathy works with Indigenous and remote communities to co-design and deliver ethical solutions for ecological challenges in northern Australia.

Cathy explained that co-design on Country in northern Australia means valuing the whole bio-cultural system and the Indigenous knowledge around it, and ensuring the solution is also reflective of that.

 “I’ve worked with Indigenous people in different parts of Australia to find responsible ways to use digital technology to solve complex challenges,” said Cathy.

“Key to this effort is to pay attention to all the risks and opportunities that these problems bring, and how co-design practice can draw on insights from Indigenous knowledge and data to find innovative solutions that fit the local context.”

Increasingly RI principles are being embedded in science and technology at CSIRO by incorporating the views and expectations of communities, Traditional Owners, and other key stakeholders in their design.

Cathy explained how CSIRO’s approach to responsible innovation looks very much like good co-design: work with a diversity of voices and values at every step of the way, and move toward a shared goal that incorporates the best of human ideas and technological solutions for sustainable outcomes.

This summary has been adapted from the Liquid Interactive team’s blog with their permission. Read Liquid’s event wrap, ‘It matters how co-design practice and purpose is done’ on their website.


Robinson, C.J., Macdonald, J.M., Douglas, M. et al. Using knowledge to care for country: Indigenous-led evaluations of research to adaptively co-manage Kakadu National Park, Australia. Sustain Sci 17, 377–390 (2022). https://doi.org/10.1007/s11625-021-01015-9