Stakeholder involvement in research processes is widely seen as essential to enhance the applicability of research. A common conclusion in the extensive body of literature on participatory and transdisciplinary research is the importance of the institutional context for understanding the dynamics and effectiveness of participatory projects. The role of institutional context has become increasingly important in view of large international research projects implementing shared participatory methodologies across countries (for example within Horizon 2020 and within CGIAR programmes), which each have different institutional contexts. Despite the generally accepted importance of the institutional context for understanding the unfolding of participatory and transdisciplinary research projects, surprisingly little research has actually looked into its role in greater detail. This paper aims to fill this gap in the literature by studying how a set of participatory principles and methods in a European project on integrated pest management (denoted as co-innovation in the project under study) was applied by researchers and advisers operating in a single international research project under the institutional conditions of four countries. The principal finding of this study is that, although constraints and enablers of participatory research at the personal level (e.g. researcher identity) were similar across the studied countries, research organisation- and community-based constraints and enablers differed, as well as those at the level of the overall innovation system. The institutions at different levels interact and create country-specific histories and path-dependencies, which lead to different degrees of propensity and preparedness, and hence different starting positions for participatory approaches. Consequently, when participatory research methods and approaches are applied in different contexts following a one-size-fits-all approach they may be less effective if not translated to institutional conditions at different levels. The study suggests that large international participatory research projects make provision in their design for careful selection of project team individuals, the composition of teams, and pay attention to the room for manoeuvre that the project, institute and national contexts provide for participatory research. To support the adjustment of participatory approaches to local institutional conditions, large international projects would benefit from fostering learning spaces that enable reflection on translation to local contexts and are capable of connecting to a wider network of decision makers and influencers that can facilitate institutional change in organisations and innovation systems.
- Cross-border innovation
- Innovation systems
- Internationalisation of research
- Research management
- Transdisciplinary research