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Accepted Contribution:

Democratizing the Delphi method: ranking the societal implications of crop gene editing for smallholder farmers  
Koen Beumer

Short abstract:

We developed a more democratic Delphi method that relies on a wider range of expertise and applied this to crop gene editing for smallholder farmers in the global South. We argue such methods for ‘closing down’ debates about agribiotechnology are a strategic point for democratic intervention.

Long abstract:

STS scholars have long argued to democratize the governance of agribiotechnology (Hurlbut et al. 2015; Beumer 2021), often focusing on methods for public deliberation that aim to ‘open up’ the debate (Stirling 2008). Policy makers, however, tend to rely on methods that ‘close down’ debates by providing actionable priorities for decision-making. We argue that such ‘closing down’ methods are a strategic point for democratic interventions.

We specifically focus on the Delphi method, which has strongly informed priority-setting in agribiotechnology governance in the past (e.g. Daar et al. 2002; UNDP 2005). This method surveys natural scientists to produces a ranking of promising technological applications. We attempt to ‘democratize’ the Delphi method by redeveloping it based on more inclusive notions of expertise that also includes social scientists and societal stakeholders and instead asks what implications are most important.

We applied this new method to crop gene editing for smallholder farmers in the global South. We approached 500 experts, yielding 67 responses. The first survey round produced 27 societal implications, 15 of which were not identified by natural scientists, thus showing the added value of widening the notion of expertise. Importantly, in the second round, where experts rank all implications identified in round one, natural scientists also ranked highly implications that were identified by societal stakeholders. As such, the Democratic Delphi is not only more inclusive and democratic, it also manages to bridge the divide between the ‘two camps’ on both sides of the gene editing controversy, while still producing an actionable ranking.

Combined Format Open Panel P317
Calling controversy, again: what role for STS?
  Session 1 Thursday 18 July, 2024, -