Since outbreaks in 2003, avian influenza has received a considerable amount of funding and become a controversial science policy issue in various respects. Like in many other global and multidisciplinary societal problems fraught with high levels of uncertainty, a variety of perspectives have emerged over how to “tackle” avian influenza and public voices have expressed concern over how research funds are being allocated. In this article, we document if and how research agendas are being informed by public policy debates. We use qualitative and quantitative approaches to examine the relations between expectations of outcomes of public science and the existing research landscape. Interviews with a cross-section of stakeholders reveal a wide range of perspectives and values associated with the nature and objectives of existing research avenues. We find that the landscape of public avian influenza research is not directly driven by expectations of societal outcomes. Instead, it is shaped by three institutional drivers: pharmaceutical industry priorities, publishing and public research funding pressures, and the mandates of science-based policy or public health organizations. These insights suggest that, in research prioritization, funding agencies should embrace a broad perspective of research governance that explicitly considers underlying institutional drivers. Deliberative approaches in public priority setting might help to make agendas more plural and diverse and thus more responsive to the contested and uncertain nature of avian influenza research.
Institutional shaping of research priorities: A case study on avian influenza
Matthew L.Wallace, Ismael Ràfols