National research priorities are often the culmination of agendas derived in negotiations between triple helix actors. These negotiation processes are no longer controlled by 'science' but involve other groups such as 'users'. The term 'users' is an example of an ideograph, a common rhetorical device used in political settings to add legitimacy to a point of view. In this paper, we explore the use of the ideograph 'users' in the evolution of research agenda-setting policies and processes of a New Zealand funding agency. In particular, a case study of a funding decision process between the agency, a research institute and an industry representative body will be used to shed light on the implications of the use of ideographs for the negotiation process. The central conclusion is that problems will ensue in any negotiation process when an individual member of an ideographic collective is called upon to espouse an apparently representative view. In the extreme, the seemingly intractable problem of finding 'ideal' ideographic representation threatens to undermine the very philosophy underpinning the negotiation process.
Paper presented at 'Breaking Boundaries, Building Bridges', the 4th Triple Helix Conference, Copenhagen, Denmark and Lund, Sweden, 06-09 November 2002