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

N. Jordan, J. Gutknecht, K. A. Bybee-Finley, M. Hunter, T. J. Krupnik, C. M. Pittelkow, P. V.V. Prasad, S. Snapp

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

8 Scopus citations


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.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)24-31
Number of pages8
JournalCrop Science
Issue number1
StatePublished - Nov 22 2020

Bibliographical note

Funding Information:
The ideas presented in this paper emerged out of discussions in the Sustainable Intensification Community of the American Society of Agronomy (ASA). We thank USAID and the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation (BMGF) for the Cereal Systems Initiative for South Asia, which helped to support TJK in contributions to this manuscript, and many colleagues for review and comment. The views expressed in this paper are of the authors and do not necessary reflect USAID or BMGF or ASA.

Publisher Copyright:
© 2020 The Authors. Crop Science published by Wiley Periodicals, Inc. on behalf of Crop Science Society of America


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