, Volume 14, Issue 1, pp 45-57

Inquiry for the public good: Democratic participation in agricultural research

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In recent decades, constituenciesserved by land-grant agricultural research haveexperienced significant demographic and politicalchanges, yet most research institutions have not fullyresponded to address the concerns of a changingclientele base. Thus, we have seen continuingcontroversies over technologies produced by land-grantagricultural research. While a number of scholars havecalled for a more participatory agricultural scienceestablishment, we understand little about the processof enhancing and institutionalizing participation inthe US agricultural research enterprise. We firstexamine some of the important issues surroundingcitizen participation in science and technologypolicy. We then review and assess variousinstitutional mechanisms for participation that havebeen implemented in diverse settings by institutionsof science and technology. Based on evidence from theexperiences of these institutions, we argue that acloser approximation of the ‘public good’ can beachieved by encouraging the participation of thefullest range possible of constituents as an integralpart of the process of setting research priorities.