Chapter 33: Public engagement as a potential responsible research and innovation tool for ensuring inclusive governance of biotechnology innovation in low- and middle-income countries
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Public engagement (PE), commonly understood as the inclusion of citizens in governing science, is one of the keys to a responsible research and innovation (RRI) framework that has been developed by the European Commission for purposes of ensuring the participation of all societal actors in the research and innovation process. Ensuring inclusive innovation, which meets the needs of marginalised communities, is at the heart of PE. While PE is mostly viewed as an element of deliberative democracy and a tool for RRI, concerns have been raised that a predominantly top-down approach is used in PE. Accordingly, there is a need to shift the focus of PE from creating awareness to effectively engaging with, and even collaborating with, the public in the innovation process. This chapter examines the extent to which the policies and practices that are currently used to foster PE in the biotechnology sector in low- and middle-income countries (LMICs) sufficiently address the inclusion, demands and needs of those at the bottom-of-the-pyramid. Using two countries from Africa as case studies, it discusses the extent to which PE strategies in Kenya and South Africa have engaged the public in a manner that meets the envisaged attributes of PE as an RRI tool. An assessment of the two countries’ strategies is undertaken by considering the following fundamental questions: is engagement used in a manner that allows contestation thus avoiding a top-down approach where scientists and policy makers lead the process? Does engagement effectively consider and incorporate the public’s contributions in the deliberative process, thus leading to inclusive innovation? By delving into these questions, the chapter considers the suitability or otherwise of PE as an RRI tool for ensuring inclusive governance approach to biotechnology innovation in LMICs based on lessons that are drawn from the two countries.

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