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  • Writer's pictureBethann Garramon Merkle

Article: It's time to divest from the word 'stakeholder'

A couple of weeks ago, a paper I'm second author on was published [1]. In it, we call for people to stop using the term stakeholder, because of the colonial connotations and ingrained inequalities of the term. While it might seem a bit pedantic (or sematic) to zero in on and "ban" one word, we really do need to take greater care with the way in which words shape our attitudes and approaches to research.

In a blog post published today by the London School of Economic, you can read more about why my co-authors and I feel the fields of scicomm, public engagement, research impact, policy, and the like need to divest from stakeholder. And, in our paper, you can read about why we do not recommend a specific word as a replacement.

My interest in the power of specific word choices is longstanding, and earlier work of mine addresses the potential for mix-ups between words that mean one thing to a specialist and other things to generalists or specialists in other disciplines. I also teach about jargon and how we can use it for belonging or exclusion, and several of my students have dug into the role of jargon in their fields and their own work in scicomm.

If you'd like additional resources about how to plan for scicomm efforts that are justice-centered and evidence-based, see:

And, if you'd like to join the convo, we'll be actively engaging with folks who want to discuss moving beyond stakeholder over on Twitter or BlueSky, so please join the dialogue there.



[1] If you can't access the paper, please let me know. I'm happy to share a PDF with you.

[2] Ironically, we were unaware of the issues with this term at that time, and we used the term stakeholder extensively in that paper and its supplemental materials. We're working right now with the journal to get a correction issued.


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