Visionary Science, Ethics, Law and Action in the Public Interest

Public Interest Research

Public Interest ResearchSeveral terms have been used to describe the basic idea behind Public Interest Research (PIR). For example, citizen science, civic science, engaged research, action research and public scholarship are all types of research that aim to directly benefit and involve members of public, non-academic communities.

However, it is often difficult to define these types of research in ways that set them apart from all other types of research. Complex questions arise, such as: Who is the ‘public’? How do we address opposing interests among different publics? What kind of basic research is in the public interest? What kind of private research might also be in the public interest?

The papers included on this page aim to stimulate further discussion on definitions of public research.

Public Interest Research Links  |  Association for Science in the Public Interest

  PIR Papers – SEHN

Defining Public Interest Research

A White paper written for the Science and Environmental Health Network; The Center for Rural Affairs and the Consortium for Sustainable Agriculture Research and Education, 1999The Case for Science and Technology in Agriculture: From Destruction to Wisdom
SEHN paper presented to Options in Agriculture conference, 1999Scientists And Grassroots Organizations: Good Work That Matters – A Guide for Citizens and Scientists Working Together to Solve Environmental Problems
A Paper prepared for The Science and Environmental Health Network by Mary O’BrienThe Networker Volume 3 (3) Public Interest Science
This issue of The Networker is devoted entirely to defining Public Interest Research.

  PIR – External Links

Loka Alert 6:3 (9 July 1999) DEFINING PUBLIC-INTEREST RESEARCH Friends & Colleagues:

IN THIS LOKA ALERT: A group of scholars and activists assembled by the nonprofit Science & Environmental Health Network (SEHN), Consortium for Sustainable Agriculture, Research & Education (CSARE) and the Center for Rural Affairs (CRA) proposes a definition for “public-interest research.” Their concern is to help concerned citizens and public agencies distinguish research that genuinely advances a common good from research that merely pretends to do so. The authors welcome comments on their working definition. This is one in an occasional series on the democratic politics of research, science, and technology issued free of charge by the nonprofit Loka Institute. To be added to the Loka Alert E-mail list, or to reply to this post, please send a message to . To be removed from the list, just send an E-mail with no subject or message text to . IF YOU SEND US A SUBSTANTIVE REPLY, LET US KNOW IF WE MAY REPOST YOUR NOTE to one of Loka’s online discussion forums. And if you enjoy Loka Alerts, please invite interested friends & colleagues to subscribe too. Thank you! Cheers to all, Dick Sclove, Research Director, The Loka Institute E-mail , Web P.O. Box 355, Amherst, MA 01004, USA (- excerpt

Philadelphia Consensus Statement
The Philadelphia Consensus Statement proposes three major changes to university policies on health-related innovations. Universities should:

  • Promote equal access to research.
  • Promote research and development for neglected diseases.
  • Measure research success according to impact on human welfare.

These changes could literally save millions of lives.

Universities Allied for Essential Medicines
Oct. 1, 2006
Join luminaries in science, medicine, law, and health policy:
Call on universities to make the fruits of their research available in the developing world.

Toward a Public Science: Building a New Social Contract Between Science and Society
A paper by Scott Peters, Assistant Professor, University of Minnesota Extension Service; Nicholas Jordan, Associate Professor, Department of Agronomy and Plant Genetics, University of Minnesota; and Gary Lemme, Professor and Head, University of Minnesota West Central Experiment Station.

Entering the Century of the Environment: A New Social Contract for Science
By Jane Lubchenco published in Science 1998.

National Association of State Universities and Land-Grant Colleges
A series of documents by the Kellog Commission on the future of state and grant universities – includes papers on “the engaged insitution” and “the student experience”.