In science policy, current concepts like “Responsible Research and Innovation” or “Citizen Science” document a new understanding of the relationship between science and society: Beyond being innovative, science should also engender an entirely new responsive, participatory, and sustainable research culture. Simultaneously, civil society has been demanding a responsible science as well as citizen participation for some time. These expectations manifest in increasing evaluations, selective research funding and demands for relevance and usefulness, producing new research formats. By way of two instructive examples - the Human Brain Project and Citizen Science -, this contribution asks whether we are on our way to a new ‘contract’ between science and society, in which science has to be legitimated through innovations that are characterised by excellence and relevance. My conclusion is: Excellence and relevance cannot be readily reconciled, but they are related to each other through pragmatic compromises (managerialisation, public engagement).