Dialogue as a tool for societal valorization of environmental and industrial biotechnology

T.A.P. Metze, Tjerk Jan Schuitmaker, Lise Bitsch, W. Betten, T. de Cock Buning, J. Broerse

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Abstract

In this project we explored and experimented with how a meaningful dialogue can be operationalized most effectively in the terms of enhancing societal valorisation of environmental and industrial biotechnology. We did so in the context of the Dutch research consortium BE-Basic. The project is co-funded project by the CSG and BE-Basic, and runs until January 2016. This report presents activities and results of the first two years, for both the PhD and the Postdoc project.
In order to enhance societal valorisation of ecogenomics-based processes and synthetic biology we formulated and implemented an interactive communication plan for organizing recurrent dialogues between actors in science and society. For this we:
 Developed a new framework for using dialogue as a tool for valorisation
 Developed novel tools for communication among scientists and between scientists and societal stakeholders
 Conducted 79 interviews
 Organised a focus group with citizens on synthetic biology
 Organised a focus group with scientist on biobased monitoring
 Organised a dialogue session with various stakeholders on biobased monitoring of water quality
 Organised nine focus groups with citizens on the biobased economy in the domains of biofuels, water-quality and waste as an energy resource
 Assessed and validated process, outcome and impact of the interaction and communication efforts as initiated through this project
 Disseminated our findings through academic publications and conferences, educational programs and non-academic talks and publications
 Initiated a valorisation track as part of project F08.002.01 (Integrated effect-based risk management for sustainable bio-based production processes (dRISK)).
In this project we implemented a three-phase reflection-action method that previously had been tested in the Ecogenomics consortium. We fine-tuned this with the implementation of a “reprocessing-factory dialogue tool” to facilitate the creation of practical wisdom through the formation of communities of practice (CoPs).
In the first and second phase, we analyzed relevant stakeholders and barriers within the BE Basic consortium and among its stakeholders. Barriers were found on three levels of cooperation: first, internally within the Flagships of BE-Basic; second, between the Flagships; third, between scientists and external stakeholders such as policymakers, regulatory agencies, and industry. One important barrier for the researchers, both on fundamental level and on a more applied level, was their interpretation of the policy context as suspicious and sometimes even hostile towards biobased monitoring tools (as opposed to the current chemical based monitoring tools). In conclusion we found barriers stemming from differences in interests, in interpretations, (academic) culture, and from the structure of BE-Basic.
The third phase of this research project is still on going. What we have learned so far is that the identified barriers can be made productive for actors to reflect on their roles and on more or less explicit norms of biobased processes. Reflection was stimulated by the use of forecasting exercises, and as a result we saw the first signs of the emergence of a community of practice and the creation of practical wisdom. Societal valorisation can therefore be seen as the process of creation of phronesis (practical wisdom).
From the PhD project on synthetic biology we learned that synthetic biology is not a topic of discussion in society, and that current discourse is limited to the scientific realm. Preliminary findings show that visions of the future and societal concerns (including visions on possible win-win situations and possible end-users) are important in designing a successful dialogue
Original languageEnglish
PublisherAthena Institute, Free University Amsterdam
Commissioning bodyCSG
Number of pages22
Publication statusPublished - 2013

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Metze, T. A. P., Schuitmaker, T. J., Bitsch, L., Betten, W., de Cock Buning, T., & Broerse, J. (2013). Dialogue as a tool for societal valorization of environmental and industrial biotechnology. Athena Institute, Free University Amsterdam.