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Science Facilities and Stakeholder Management: How a pan-European research facility ended up in a small Swedish university town

Journal article
Authors Anna Thomasson
Colin Carlile
Published in Physica Scripta
Volume 92
Issue 6
Pages 1-32
ISSN 0031-8949
Publication year 2017
Published at
Pages 1-32
Language en
Subject categories Other Natural Sciences, Other Social Sciences


This is the story of how a large research facility of broad European and global interest, the European Spallation Source (ESS), ended up in the small university town of Lund in Sweden. This happened in spite of the fact that a number of influential European countries were at one time or another competitors to host the facility. It is also a story about politics which attempts to illustrate how closely intertwined politics and science are, and how the interplay between those interests affects scientific progress. ESS became an arena for individual ambitions and political manoeuvring. The different stakeholders, in their striving to ensure that their own interests were realised, in various ways and with different degrees of success over the years, have influenced the key decisions that, during the already 30 year history of ESS, have driven the course that this project has taken. What emerges is that the interests of the stakeholders and the interests of the project itself are frequently not in harmony. This imposes challenges on the management of large research facilities as they have to not only navigate in the scientific landscape, which they often are more familiar with, but also in the political landscape. This story is therefore an attempt to shed light on the role of managers of large research facilities and the often delicate balancing act they have to perform when trying to comply with the different and often conflicting stakeholder interests. What is especially worthwhile examining, as we do in this paper, is the role that individuals, and the interaction between individuals, have played in the process. This shows that the focus of stakeholder theory on organisations, rather than the people in the organisations, needs to be redirected on to the individuals representing those organisations and their inter-relationships. At the same time it is clear that the developing field of stakeholder management theory has not emerged into the consciousness of science facility managers or their governing bodies and is far down the list of priorities of researchers who use the facilities.

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