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Special Issue "Public Participation in Sustainability-Oriented Research: Fallacies of Inclusiveness and the Ambivalences of Digital and Other Remedies"

A special issue of Sustainability (ISSN 2071-1050).

Deadline for manuscript submissions: closed (1 December 2022) | Viewed by 5454

Special Issue Editors

Dr. Leonie Dendler
E-Mail Website
Guest Editor
Department Risk Communication, German Federal Institute for Risk Assessment, Berlin, 10589, Germany
Interests: Public engagement in science, science policy, sustainable consumption and production, food governance
Dr. Annett Schulze
E-Mail Website
Guest Editor
Department Risk Communication, German Federal Institute for Risk Assessment, Berlin, 10589, Germany
Interests: (digital) health communication, occupational health and safety, (in)formal networks, new social movements
Prof. Dr. Stefan Böschen
E-Mail Website
Guest Editor
HumTec, RWTH Aachen University, Aachen, 52062, Germany
Interests: Sociology of Science, Technology Assessment, participatory research
Ms. Claudia Göbel
E-Mail Website
Guest Editor
Institute for Higher Education Research at University Halle-Wittenberg (HoF), Wittenberg, 06886, Germany
Interests: Science society relations, participatory research, citizen science, science policy

Special Issue Information

Dear Colleagues,

In 2015, the United Nations member states adopted the Sustainable Development Goals. Aim of these goals is to provide a blueprint for a more sustainable future by addressing global challenges, such as health, poverty, inequality, hunger or climate change. In the light of the Covid-19 pandemic, many of these challenges are already, or are likely to become, even more severe. By opening itself up wider to societal participation, science is supposed to play a key role in co-developing solutions for the „grand societal challenges” of our times. This “mainstreaming” of public engagement builds upon several decades of proliferation of different approaches to participation in science and technology. These reach from “science shops” created in the 1970s; over “material deliberation” in form of participatory prototyping and “future making” or involvement of stakeholders in transdisciplinary research; to popular concepts of “citizen science” as well as new forms of real-world experimenting, such as “living labs” or “social innovation labs”. Since the 1990s, participation formats relying on the idea of deliberative democracy have also been used and have recently gained new momentum. But while participatory approaches are becoming more widespread, core questions remain unanswered. Most notable is the question of inclusiveness. The UN SDGs, for example, emphasize the principle of “leaving no one behind” and the European Commission (recently) called for setting EU-wide research and innovation missions based on “an inclusive process” involving citizens, multiple economic sectors, policy areas and scientific disciplines. However, practical experiences with participatory methods as well as their academic reflections question the inclusiveness of current approaches. Many have pointed to a common domination by the better educated and more powerful or questioned the extent to which current approaches transcend epistemic authority of organisations or rather restrict participation to more mundane tasks. Some even see participation as an instrument to silence objections and press ahead with chosen paths. These problems are aggravated by societal transformations, for example regarding the functioning of representative democracies against the background of increasing polarisation of social groups, exigencies of digitalisation or the effects of climate change. Maneuvering these challenges seems to call for new participation approaches including, but not limited to, digital ones. However, institutionalising new approaches emerges as the Achilles’ heel of participation. How society will achieve such institutionalisation will determine whether participation develops as (part of) a remedy for present challenges - or, to the contrary, intensifies them.

With these challenges in mind, this special issue aims to shed light on historic, current and potential future architectures of participation in sustainability-oriented research trying to find answers to questions, such as:

  • What areas of sustainability do current participation approaches focus on and what specific inclusiveness challenges do they raise?
  • What is the role of participation during and after moments of crisis?
  • What differences do we see, for example, between interest groups, urban and rural areas, educational background in terms of participation, exclusion and potential remedies?
  • What differences do we see between participation formats, e.g. digital and offline approaches?
  • What differences do we see between scientific disciplines and other macro, meso and micro structures underpinning participation practises?
  • What are the causes of actual and potential exclusions?
  • What is the role of representativeness? To what extent can or should current engagement approaches meet such requirements?

We invite both empirical and conceptual contributions to respond to these and other related questions. By identifying inclusiveness challenges, their causes and fallacies as well as ways to address them, this special issue will respond not only to scientific calls for more reflective and critical academic discussions around notions of inclusiveness but also to a timely policy discourse.

Dr. Leonie Dendler
Dr. Annett Schulze
Prof. Dr. Stefan Böschen
Ms. Claudia Göbel
Guest Editors

Manuscript Submission Information

Manuscripts should be submitted online at www.mdpi.com by registering and logging in to this website. Once you are registered, click here to go to the submission form. Manuscripts can be submitted until the deadline. All submissions that pass pre-check are peer-reviewed. Accepted papers will be published continuously in the journal (as soon as accepted) and will be listed together on the special issue website. Research articles, review articles as well as short communications are invited. For planned papers, a title and short abstract (about 100 words) can be sent to the Editorial Office for announcement on this website.

Submitted manuscripts should not have been published previously, nor be under consideration for publication elsewhere (except conference proceedings papers). All manuscripts are thoroughly refereed through a single-blind peer-review process. A guide for authors and other relevant information for submission of manuscripts is available on the Instructions for Authors page. Sustainability is an international peer-reviewed open access semimonthly journal published by MDPI.

Please visit the Instructions for Authors page before submitting a manuscript. The Article Processing Charge (APC) for publication in this open access journal is 2000 CHF (Swiss Francs). Submitted papers should be well formatted and use good English. Authors may use MDPI's English editing service prior to publication or during author revisions.

Keywords

  • Participation
  • Inclusiveness
  • Science
  • Citizen Science
  • Responsible Science
  • Innovation

Published Papers (2 papers)

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Research

Article
Citizen Science Addressing Challenges of Sustainability
Sustainability 2021, 13(24), 13980; https://doi.org/10.3390/su132413980 - 17 Dec 2021
Cited by 3 | Viewed by 1357
Abstract
Practices for the engagement of citizens and other research and innovation (R and I) stakeholders in science can be found aplenty in the existing literature, all along with principles, guidelines and tools providing meaningful guidance for practitioners in research funding and performing, organizations [...] Read more.
Practices for the engagement of citizens and other research and innovation (R and I) stakeholders in science can be found aplenty in the existing literature, all along with principles, guidelines and tools providing meaningful guidance for practitioners in research funding and performing, organizations (RPFOs) and helping them achieve high quality and responsible citizen science projects addressing sustainability challenges. Such guidance, however, is scarce when it comes to setting up and running transdisciplinary citizen science eco systems, where projects can be systematically initiated by different stakeholders and carried out in a dedicated supportive environment. Based on literature review and series of semi-structured interviews with quadruple helix stakeholders in Lithuania, this paper provides a current overview of the perceptions, concerns, motivational factors, and obstacles with regard to participation in citizen science activities. Full article
Article
The Known Unknowns: What Citizen Science Projects in Germany Know about Their Volunteers—And What They Don’t Know
Sustainability 2021, 13(20), 11553; https://doi.org/10.3390/su132011553 - 19 Oct 2021
Cited by 4 | Viewed by 2584
Abstract
The citizen science landscape in Germany offers an enormous range for participation. More than 170 projects currently present themselves on the national citizen science platform. In 2020, we conducted a survey among 140 projects (participation rate 56%), and they provided information on the [...] Read more.
The citizen science landscape in Germany offers an enormous range for participation. More than 170 projects currently present themselves on the national citizen science platform. In 2020, we conducted a survey among 140 projects (participation rate 56%), and they provided information on the organisational framework and characteristics (disciplines, initiators, funding, and project goals), as well as on the academic researchers and the volunteering citizen scientists involved. A surprising result was that the level of knowledge about the volunteers is very low overall. Many projects deliberately do not collect personal data (e.g., on socio-demographic variables, knowledge, and behaviour), partly for data-protection reasons and partly because they are unsure about how to collect it due to a lack of instruments and standards. We aim to illustrate the complexity of this issue and discuss various dilemmas arising between theoretical aspirations and the pragmatic and procedural realities in practice. We conclude with suggestions for developing project-specific strategies to increase diversity and inclusion. We argue that the task of conducting accompanying research on participant diversity cannot be borne by individual projects alone and consider the development and implementation of co-creative and qualitative approaches suitable for this purpose. Full article
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