Science and technology development and the depoliticization of the public space

Linda R. Macdonald (Dalhousie Writing Centre, Dalhousie University, Halifax, Canada)
Richard J. Varey (Department of Marketing, Waikato Management School, Waikato University, Hamilton, New Zealand)
James R. Barker (School of Business Administration, Dalhousie University, Halifax, Canada)

Sustainability Accounting, Management and Policy Journal

ISSN: 2040-8021

Publication date: 30 August 2011



The authors aim to review a five‐year multi‐study research programme on the role of public dialogue in the social and cultural sustainability of biotechnology developments in New Zealand.


The authors conducted a critical review of all the published research products from a five‐year government‐funded study of the cultural and social aspects of sustainable biotechnology in New Zealand.


The review research highlights how New Zealand Government policies on biotechnology, which motivated the research programme, were fore‐grounded on economic progress and competitive positioning. Thus, debate on sustainable biotechnology issues became cast in economic and technical terms, while public dialogue became seen as diversionary and unsubstantiated. The analysis concludes that the programme was ineffective in influencing government policy and fell victim to the very problem of science governance that its purpose was designed to address.

Research limitations/implications

The research develops implications regarding the ability of government‐funded sustainability research to influence policy.


The review focuses on the purpose, content, outcomes, and context of the research programme and identifies a number of key themes that arose from the programme that are useful for other sustainability policy researchers. The reviewers conclude that this case demonstrates that the marketization of the public sphere depoliticises the social and cultural construction of the nation's future.



Macdonald, L., Varey, R. and Barker, J. (2011), "Science and technology development and the depoliticization of the public space", Sustainability Accounting, Management and Policy Journal, Vol. 2 No. 1, pp. 8-26.

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Copyright © 2011, Emerald Group Publishing Limited

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