Current governance of science, technology and innovation (STI) faces tough challenges to meet demands arising from complex issues such as societal challenges or targets, e.g. the United Nations’ Sustainable Development Goals. For decades, scholars and civil society institutions have called for increased public participation in STI, and political institutions have been taking up the request to integrate engagement activities into their decision-making processes, at least in the form of consultations. Moving engagement in research and development further upstream makes early interventions and social shaping of technologies and innovation possible. Since research has also faced repeated requests towards taking on more responsibility for solving societal problems, engagement processes thus help in shaping research. Here, the earliest point for possible engagement can be found within the constituting phase of research agendas as topics, general lines of enquiry and targets are shaped in this phase. These are the boundaries in between which researchers later navigate. This article serves as introduction to this journal’s topical collection on participatory agenda setting for research and innovation (PASE). It provides a review of the literature on theory and practice of PASE activities, summarises the topical collection’s contributions regarding current international cases and analyses respective PASE limits and benefits, thereby promoting its conceptual and practical understanding.
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