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Stakeholder involvement in sustainability science

a critical view

Mielke, Jahel; Vermaßen, Hannah; Ellenbeck, Saskia; Fernandez Milan, Blanca; Jaeger, Carlo

Discussions about the opening of science to society have led to several developments: New fields of sustainability science and transformative research have emerged and the "megatrend" of stakeholder participation has reached the academic world and thus research processes. This challenges the way science is conducted and the tools, methods and theories perceived appropriate. Although researchers integrate stakeholders, the scientific community still lacks comprehensive theoretical analysis of the practical processes behind it – for example what kind of perceptions scientists have about their role, their objectives, the knowledge to gather, the understanding of science or the science-policy interface. Our paper addresses this research gap by using the categories above to develop four ideal types of stakeholder involvement in science – the technocratic, functionalist, neoliberal, rational and democratic type. In applying the typology which is based on literature review, interviews and practical experience, we identify and discuss three major criticisms raised towards stakeholder involvement in science: the legitimacy of stakeholder claims, the question whether bargaining or deliberation are part of the stakeholder process and the question of the autonomy of science. Thus, the typology helps scientists to better understand the major critical questions that stakeholder involvement raises and enables them to position themselves.
Published in: Energy Research and Social Science, 10.1016/j.erss.2016.04.001, Elsevier