To meet grand challenges, agricultural scientists must engage in the politics of constructive collective action uri icon


  • Agriculture now faces grand challenges, with crucial implications for the global future. These include the need to increase production of nutrient-dense food, to improve agriculture's effects on soil, water, wildlife, and climate, and to enhance equity and justice in food and agricultural systems. We argue that certain politics of constructive collective action-and integral involvement of agricultural scientists in these politics-are essential for meeting grand challenges and other complex problems facing agriculture in the 21st century. To spur reflection and deliberation about the role of politics in the work of agricultural scientists, we outline these politics of constructive collective action. These serve to organize forceful responses to grand challenges through coordinated and cooperative action taken by multiple sectors of society. In essence, these politics entail (1) building bonds of affinity within a heterogenous network, (2) developing a shared roadmap for collective action, and (3) taking sustained action together. These emerging politics differ markedly from more commonly discussed forms of political activity by scientists, e.g., policy advisory, policy advocacy, and protest. We present key premises for our thesis, and then describe and discuss a politics of constructive collective action, the necessary roles of agricultural scientists, and an agenda for exploring and expanding their engagement in these politics.

publication date

  • 2021
  • 2020