Headline: Control before Collaborative Research – Why Phase Zero Is Not Co-Designed but Scripted

The very beginning of collaborative research endeavors often lies in politically difficult and practically challenging entanglements. The purpose of this paper is to empirically capture and theoretically conceptualize these entanglements. I trace the power-driven prefiguration of my own role in a transdisciplinary project and argue that the early moments (the ‘phase zero’) of collaborative research are entwined with a tacit, tactical, and relational form of control. In a process that I call ‘scripting control,’ actors seek to co-determine what a project may become, without being able to forecast or backcast a pathway to get there. Collaborators mutually launch counter-scripts and tacitly shape the possibility space that constrains or enables subsequent interactions. My own transdisciplinary involvement illustrates, however, that counter-scripts proposed by latecomers can fail if the project has passed the phase zero. This argument extends the current use of scripts in Science and Technology Studies to also involve temporal power dynamics. Moreover, in sustainability studies, my argument contributes to a growing critique against the imaginary of co-design, which promotes a managerial idea of ordering collaborative processes in a socially and epistemically inclusive way.

Publication Year
Publication Type
Academic Articles

Herberg, J. (2020). Control before Collaborative Research – Why Phase Zero Is Not Co-Designed but Scripted. Social epistemology, 34(4), 395-407. doi:10.1080/02691728.2019.1706122.

Projects involved
Co-Creation and Contemporary Policy Advice