Journal Article


Understanding Participation Through Science and Technology

Published on 1 November 2007

Science and technology need society. But does society need science and technology? This is one of the questions posed in this issue of the IDS Bulletin, which brings together insights from Science and Technology Studies (STS) and Development Studies (DS).

Research proposals and technological planning have little chance of success without anticipating their effects on society. They gain wider acceptance by engaging citizens in debates on potentially controversial developments such as nanotechnology. This acceptance may be guided by norms or ethical principles, or may also be commercially viable.

The participatory agenda for science and technology is pushed by global supra-national networks, with programmes across all continents. So how does participation relate to science and technology? What are the power relations between scientists, policymakers and members of the public? What types of scientific and technological decisions can be influenced through participation?

Science and technology is everywhere and taken for granted in our daily lives – drinking water from a tap, buying food from a supermarket – and are implicit in development assumptions about modernisation and economic growth. Nonetheless, this is a changing world where questions of risk, safety and innovation are paramount. Scientific expertise can no longer rely on its assumed inherent authority.

News headlines broadcast controversies about how people mobilise around topics like climate change or GMO crops. Innovative new measures – such as consensus conferences, citizens’ juries and community-based environmental audits – have been adopted to encourage public participation, and now frequently characterise science and policy processes both North and South.

Table of contents

Introduction: How Participation Relates to Science and Technology and How Science and Technology Shapes Participation (pdf 59 kb) Harro Maat and Linda Waldman

‘European Scientific Governance in a Global Context: Resonances, Implications and Reflections’ Maja Horst, Alan Irwin, Peter Healey and Rob Hagendijk

‘How Does Participation Work? Deliberation and Performance in African Food Security’ Paul Richards

‘Evaluating Science and Risk: Living with and Dying from Asbestos’ Linda Waldman

‘Is Participation Rooted in Colonialism? Agricultural Innovation Systems and Participation in the Netherlands Indies’ Harro Maat

‘Farmer Participation in Private Sector Agricultural Extension’ Dominic Glover

‘Participation, Communication and Innovation: Thinking About the International Aids Vaccine Initiative’ Joanna Chataway and James Smith


Linda Waldman

Director of Teaching and Learning

Dominic Glover

Rural Futures Cluster Lead

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Publication details

published by
Chataway, J., Maat, H. and Waldman, L.
Joanna Chataway, Harro Maat and Linda Waldman
IDS Bulletin, volume 38, issue 5


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