The Contours of Participatory Dynamics in Sustainability Research at Science-Society Interface

Wednesday, 13 July 2016: 11:15
Location: Hörsaal 6A P (Neues Institutsgebäude (NIG))
Oral Presentation
Livia FRITZ, Ludwig-Maximilians-University Munich, Department of Geography, Germany
In the area of (un)sustainable development the limitations of discipline-centred knowledge production within the exclusive realms of science have manifested themselves in malfunctioning feedback loops between science and political action. Consensus is emerging that traditional forms of scientific inquiry along clear-cut boundaries between scientific knowledge production and the societal usage thereof are not apt for managing complex socio-ecological systems and need to be complemented by more entangled ways of producing what is expected to be ‘socially robust’ and ‘responsive’ knowledge. Within sustainability research transdisciplinarity (TD), which aims at the integration of diverse forms of expertise ranging from structural-analytical knowledge to experienced-based knowledge, has emerged as a key notion. More recently the concept has also entered science policy and research funding schemes. The enthusiastic call for a transgression of science-society boundaries in search for sustainable futures notwithstanding, fairly little is known about the participatory dynamics unfolding in TD practices. Academic literature on the driving and constraining factors that shape the ways in which researchers, civil society actors, politicians or entrepreneurs – i.e. actors with distinct forms of expertise - jointly define concerns and (co-)produce knowledge is scant. By (i) integrating different strands of literature on participation and knowledge co-production from Science and Technology Studies, TD research and development research as well as (ii) relying on first empirical findings from project case studies taken from a major research funding programme of the Ministry of Research and Culture of the State of Lower Saxony (Germany), this paper aims at unfolding the main factors determining the interaction of academic and non-academic actors in sustainability research. Particular emphasis is put on the extent to which values and expectations, including the (self-)ascription of roles to the different actors and the respective expertise they bring to the table, affect the participatory dynamics at the science-society interface.