Forschungswende works at the national level to promote science policy expertise, create a forum for those interested in politics, governance and science policy, and increase demand for and promote improved participation and transformation orientation in the science system. To this end, it created a platform of civil society organisations (CSOs) to enhance organisation capacity and increase transparency and transdisciplinary participation in the research and innovation system. Forschungswende is changing how R&I is approached to help shape social – ecological transformations and science policy democratisation.
The platform engages with politicians to balance the interests of industry and science with those of public stakeholders. It forms an ‘agora’ of diverse CSOs (e.g., environmental organisations, development organisations, social organisations, student organisations, food organisations) and collaborates with other partners and advisory boards working on sustainable science.
The platform organises presentations and face-to-face meetings to explain the concept of transdisciplinary research and the need for more participation among CSOs, policymakers and the science system. It documents every workshop and working process on its website, which also contains a collection of relevant studies and links.
The platform challenges the traditional science and research system by introducing and promoting the concept of transdisciplinary research and demanding broader involvement of CSOs in all stages of the R&I process. Via interactive workshops (for example, on envisioning our society in 2030), conferences, policy papers and a knowledge sharing platform, the participation of diverse CSOs facilitates debate and reflection on power relationships, assumptions, values, transparency and complexity in science and policy processes.
The practice itself does not react to stakeholder needs; instead it is a platform and a voice for those needs. It aims at changing structures and systems so they become more responsive. However, through observing and communicating about various events, the platform seems to be sensitive to changes in external factors.
Together with collaborative partners, Forschungswende has created strategy groups to develop platform processes on good science and practice. It has organised workshops and conferences to outline priorities and working structures and has published the study, ‘Participation and Transparency in Energy Research’.
The platform has taken up three related, complex and perhaps underexposed challenges of RRI governance: 1) The need for RRI capacity building of societal stakeholder groups, including 2) acknowledgment of the inherently political character of science–policy–society interfaces and R&I processes, which necessitates lobbying activities and 3) the creation of learning spaces, agoras, where CSOs, scientists and policymakers learn to deliberate directly, openly and reflexively on preferences and choices.