Panel 37

Interesting participatory processes in science, technology and innovation: conditions, challenges and prospects for bottom-up innovation

Organizers: Simone Arnaldi (1); Stefano Crabu (2); Paolo Magaudda (2)

1: University of Trieste, Italy; 2: University of Padua, Italy

Topics: Knowledge co-creation, citizens science, co-design processes, material publics and grassroot innovation

Keywords: co-creation, bottom-up innovation, participation, open science

In recent decades, participatory models of technoscientific innovations have garnered more and more attention both in academia and practice. In particular, a broad array of concepts has been introduced to describe bottom-up processes taking place outside institutional R&D settings and involving a broad range of social actors, such as citizens and end-users. Examples of these notions include but are not limited to: “deliberative” and “participatory” public engagement (Burgess 2014), co-creation (Voorber et al. 2014), user-driven innovation (Franke et al. 2016), research in the wild (Callon and Rabeharisoa 2003), Responsible Research and Innovation (RRI) (von Schomberg 2013) and Open Science (Levin and Leonelli 2017). Despite their differences, all these emerging notions share an emphasis on participation as a condition to align technoscientific developments with the values, expectations and needs of concerned communities and stakeholders.

Yet, existing assessments of these experiences highlight the difficulty to set up interesting processes that are capable to engage and coalesce social actors and ensure long term sustainability, efficacy, effectiveness, and transferability. Issues such as unequal power distribution among participants, lack of reflection and reflexivity, insufficient support from regulators and the scientific community, all seem to contradict the expectation that bottom-up innovation can change dominant institutions and policies for better aligning technoscientific practices and social needs.

The panel welcomes theoretical, empirical, and methodological contributions by STS scholars, social scientists and practitioners exploring the interesting processes that underpin these participatory experiments in science, technology and innovation. The overall goal of the panel is to map and examine the features of these alternative forms of innovation, as well as the conditions enabling them to gain further ground.