Plant scientists face different dilemmas in the fight against the plant destroyer Phytophthora – a major problem in staple crop cultivation. For one thing, they need to reconcile scientific with societal concerns because technical solutions such as disease-resistant genetically modified crops are not readily adopted. This study analyzes how experts manage the science-society relationship in their everyday talk and provides directions to improve it.
Increasingly funding bodies expect that plant scientists develop new technologies that match prospective users’ requirements and serve societal goals. However, technologies that primarily serve societal goals such as decreasing environmental pollution by reducing the use of agrochemicals may compromise socioeconomic boundary conditions: if farmers do not apply enough agrochemicals they may lose harvests. Even new plant technologies that appear to directly serve farmers’ needs are not always adopted. Dutch farmers are for example reluctant to grow genetically modified crops because they assume that customers may not want to buy these crops.
Existing sociological studies tend to offer insights in the content of key players’ arguments in order to explain existing relationships and dynamics in biotechnology. These studies however fail to take into account when and to what effects participants in their everyday talk invoke 'relevant others’, and substantiate or reject others’ claims.
The project 'The discursive other: Dynamics in plant scientist-stakeholder interaction' aims to address this gap by providing discursive psychological analyses of how experts in practice manage to reconcile scientific concerns with user concerns. In addition we organize and analyze workshops in which participants are taught to reflect on their own and others’ talk. With the latter we seek to empower experts to handle the interactional dilemmas connected to their scientific practices.
Mogendorff, K., te Molder, H., Gremmen, B. & Van Woerkum, C. (2012). 'Everyone May Think Whatever They Like, but Scientists...': Or How and to What End Plant Scientists Manage the Science-Society Relationship. In: Science Communication 34(6), 727-751. (DOI: 10.1177/1075547011433887)