G2 Peripheral-dominant: Establish intermediates to manage mutual expectations at stake

In this project type CSOs do not meet researchers on an equal footing with regards to their respective social roles. However, the CSOs are still expected to make a valuable contribution towards the knowledge production, for example influencing the methods used and the resulting project outcomes. Similar to the peripheral-marginal type, the CSOs might be members of an advisory board, be engaged as a subcontractor, be the object of research or they might not have a specified role. Their activities might encompass formulating the research methods or feeding into the strategic planning more generally. Their impact on the project is to reach specific research goals, in order to define the research problem or to identify blind spots.

In the daily work of a peripheral-dominant research project the governance challenge is to integrate CSOs while limiting their influence on the project. Or to put it differently, the most pressing problem is to welcome the CSOs’ transformative feedback and to define or accept clear limits with regards to the professional relationship between the consortium and the CSOs. Against this background, as a result of the research conducted within CONSIDER we recommend placing an emphasis on the management of mutual expectations, for example by establishing intermediates. Further, as the CSOs have a dominant role within the project but lack any decision-making authority they need to define spaces for action or limits which need to be respected by the rest of the project consortium. Any intermediary would need to be responsible for the establishment of such a protected space as defined by the CSOs.

Example: Trusted intermediary between CSO and researcher

One of our case study projects involved members of CSOs who were all affected by a particular disability, in order to develop technical applications designed to be directly relevant to the daily needs of these disabled people. The CSOs had unfortunately had bad experiences working with scientists on a previous project. For this reason mutual trust was perceived as a condition of success by both the research consortium and the CSOs. One of the consortium partners had been cooperating with the CSOs previously, which had led to a trusting relationship. The mutual exchange processes between the consortium and the CSOs were thus organised based on this successful cooperation model. By acting as an intermediary the relevant consortium partner was able to manage expectations and reduce disappointments due to mis-communication.