Reflexivity in performative science shop projects

Raoul Beunen
Martijn Duineveld
Roel During
Gerard Straver
Albert Aalvanger


Science shop research projects offer possibilities for universities to engage with communities. Many science shop projects directly or indirectly intend to empower certain marginalised groups or interests within a decision-making process. In this article we argue that it is important to reflect on the role and position the researchers have in these projects. We present three science shop projects to illustrate some of the dilemmas that may arise in relation to citizen empowerment, democracy, and ethics in the field of action research and community engagement. We present reflexivity as a strategy for creating greater awareness of the power−knowledge relationship, the nature of the democratic process and the consequences of empowerment for other vulnerable groups.

Keywords: Action research, community engagement, reflexivity, science shop

Full Text:



Aalbers, C & Padt, F 2010, 25 jaar onderzoek van de Wageningse Wetenschapswinkel: Succesbepalende factoren nu en in de toekomst, Wetenschapswinkel, Wageningen UR, Wageningen, the Netherlands.

Aalvanger, A 2011, Villagers' self-organisation in spatial planning: The relationship between village visions, village councils and collective identities within a village, Wageningen University, Wageningen, the Netherlands.

Aalvanger, A & Beunen, R 2011, Dorpsidentiteit: Op zoek naar eenheid in verscheidenheid: vijf methoden waarmee dorpsbewoners hun dorpsidentiteit expliciet kunnen maken, Wetenschapswinkel Rapport 275, Wageningen UR, Wageningen, the Netherlands.

Adams, L 1999, 'The Mascot Researcher', Journal of Contemporary Ethnography, vol. 28, no. 4, pp. 331363.

Bal, M 2002, Travelling concepts in the humanities: A rough guide, University of Toronto Press, Toronto.

Barthes, R 1957, Mythologies, Éditions du Seuil, Paris.

Baum, H 2000, 'Fantasies and realities in university-community partnerships', Journal of Planning Education and Research, vol. 20, no. 2, pp. 23446.

Berardi, G 2002, 'Commentary on the challenge to change: Participatory research and professional realities', Society and Natural Resources, vol. 15, no. 2, pp. 84752.

Beunen, R & Opdam, P 2011, 'When landscape planning becomes landscape governance, what happens to the science?', Landscape and Urban Planning, vol. 100, no. 4, pp. 324326.

de Bok, C & Steinhaus, N 2008, 'Breaking out of the local: International dimension of science shops', Gateways, International Journal of Community Research and Engagement, vol. 1, pp. 16578.

Bourdieu, P 2003, 'Participant objectivation', Journal of the Royal Anthropological Institute, vol. 9, no. 2, pp. 28194.

Bourdieu, P & Wacquant, L 1992, An invitation to reflexive sociology, University of Chicago Press, Chicago, IL.

Cassell, C & Johnson, P 2006, 'Action research: Explaining the diversity', Human Relations, vol. 59, no. 6, pp. 783814.

Cooper, N & Burnett, S 2006, 'Using discursive reflexivity to enhance the qualitative research process', Qualitative Social Work, vol. 5, no. 1, pp. 11129.

Denzin, N 1997, Interpretive ethnography: Ethnographic practices for the 21st century, Sage, Thousand Oaks, CA.

Duineveld, M & Van Assche, K 2011, 'The power of tulips: Constructing nature and heritage in a contested langscape', Journal of Environmental Policy and Planning, vol. 13, no. 2, pp. 7998.

Ellis, R & Waterton, C 2005, 'Caught between the cartographic and the ethnographic imagination: The whereabouts of amateurs, professionals, and nature in knowing biodiversity', Environment and Planning D: Society and Space, vol. 23, pp. 67393.

Fischer, F 2009, Democracy & expertise: Reorienting policy inquiry, Oxford University Press, Oxford, UK.

Flyvbjerg, B 1998, Rationality and power: Democracy in practice, University of Chicago Press, Chicago, IL.

Flyvbjerg, B 2002, 'Bringing power to planning research: One researcher's praxis story', Journal of Planning Education and Research, vol. 21, pp. 35366.

Foucault, M 1973, The order of things, Random House, New York.

Foucault, M 1977, Discipline and punish, Tavistock, London.

Foucault, M 1994, Power: Essential works of Foucault 19541984, Volume 3, The New Press, New York.

Foucault, M 1998, The will to knowledge. The history of sexuality: 1. Penguin Books, London.

Fuller, S 2009, The sociology of intellectual life: The career of the mind in and around academia, Sage, London.

Geertz, C 1973, The interpretation of cultures: Selected essays, Basic Books, New York.

Greenwood, D & Levin, M 2007, Introduction to action research: Social research for social change, Sage, Thousand Oaks, CA.

Hernstein-Smith, B 2005, Scandalous knowledge: Science, truth and the human, Edinburgh University Press, Edinburgh, Scotland.

Hillier, J 2002, Shadows of power: An allegory of prudence in land-use planning, Routledge, New York.

Hoofwijk, H, Stobbelaar, D, Simons, R & Jaarsma, C 2007, Verkeer is als water Overlast, veiligheid, bereikbaarheid en landschapskwaliteit in de casus Erp, Brabant, Wageningen UR, Wageningen.

Howe, J & Langdon, C 2002, 'Towards a reflexive planning theory', Planning Theory, vol. 1, no. 3, pp. 20925.

Inglis, F 2000, Clifford Geertz: Culture, custom and ethics, Polity Press, Cambridge, UK.

Irwin, A 2001, 'Constructing the scientific citizen: Science and democracy in the biosciences', Public Understanding of Science, vol. 10, no. 1, pp. 118.

Jaarsma, C 2007, 'Echte oplossing voor Erp bereikbaar', Brabants Dagblad, 23 October, p. 29.

Lam, M & Bertilsson, M 2003, 'Consuming, engaging and confronting science: The emerging dimensions of scientific citizenship', European Journal of Social Theory, vol. 6, no. 2, pp. 23351.

Latour, B 2004, Politics of nature: How to bring the sciences into democracy, Harvard University Press, Cambridge, MA.

Leydesdorff, L & Ward, J 2005, 'Science shops: A kaleidoscope of science-society collaborations in Europe', Public Understanding of Science, vol. 14, no. 4, pp. 35372.

Martin, G 2008, 'Ordinary people only": Knowledge, representativeness, and the publics of public participation in healthcare', Sociology of Health & Illness, vol. 30, no. 1, pp. 3554."

Mauthner, N & Doucet, A 2003, 'Reflexive accounts and accounts of reflexivity in qualitative data analysis', Sociology, vol. 37, no. 3, pp. 41331.

McNie, E 2007, 'Reconciling the supply of scientific information with user demands: An analysis of the problem and review of the literature', Environmental Science & Policy, vol. 10, pp. 1738.

Mosse, D 2005, Cultivating development: An ethnography of aid policy and practice, Pluto Press, London.

Nowotny, H, Scott, P & Gibbons, M 2001, Re-thinking science: Knowledge and the public in an age of uncertainty, Polity Press, Cambridge, UK.

van Paasen, A, van den Berg, J, Steingröver, E, Werkman, R & Pedroli, B (eds) 2011, Knowledge in action: The search for collaborative research for sustainable landscape development, Wageningen Academic Publishers, Wageningen, the Netherlands.

Pleijte, M, During, R, Gerritsen, A & Stuyt, L 2005, Noordwaard: Over stromingen in denken over hoogwater en natuur: ruimte voor meer stromen om de Noordwaard, Wetenschapswinkel, Wageningen UR, Wageningen, the Netherlands.

Rap, E 2006, 'The success of a policy model: Irrigation management transfer in Mexico', Journal of Development Studies, vol. 42, no. 8, pp. 130124.

Reed-Danahay, D 2005, Locating Bourdieu, Indiana University Press, Bloomington.

Sletto, B 2010, 'Educating reflective practitioners: Learning to embrace the unexpected through service learning', Journal of Planning Education and Research, vol. 29, pp. 40315.

Stobbelaar, D & Leistra, G 2010, 'Upscaling local environmental problems to create governance solutions', in Book of abstracts for Scaling and Governance Conference 2010, Wageningen, the Netherlands 11-12 November 2010, Wageningen University, Wageningen, pp. 3435.

Trigg, R 2004, Understanding Social Science, Blackwell Publishing, Oxford, UK. `

Van Assche, K 2007, 'Planning as/and/in context: Towards a new analysis of interactive planning', METU JFA, vol. 24, no. 2, pp. 105117.

Van Assche, K, Beunen, R & Duineveld, M 2011, 'Performing success and failure in governance: Dutch planning experiences', Public Administration, article first published online 24 October.