March 14, 2014

Confessions from the Head of Public Dialogue

Filed under: Uncategorized — Nanasha @ 12:07 pm

By Simon Burall, Head of Dialogue for Sciencewise

Siman BurrallThis is the second post in a series of reflective pieces about Sciencewise’s Citizen Group. The posts are exploring how well the Group has played its role in bringing citizen perspectives into the heart of the programme. In the first post in the series, Confessions of a Citizen Group Member, Mark Symmonds gives a very honest account about how it worked from his perspective.

This post takes the perspective of one of the ‘commissioners’ of the Group. (more…)

March 3, 2014

Confessions of a Citizen Group member

Filed under: Uncategorized — Nanasha @ 2:46 pm

By Mark Symonds, Sciencewise Citizen Group member

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The Sciencewise Citizen Group – kicking off our reflection process
[Editor’s note] In Autumn 2012 Sciencewise launched a Citizen Group to bring the knowledge and perspectives of the public into the development and implementation of the Sciencewise programme. It was intended as an experiment, and would test how far a programme such as Sciencewise (which, after all, aims to be an expert resource centre on engaging the public) could incorporate public views into our own programmatic decision-making. (more…)

February 20, 2014

Outside the Goldfish Bowl: Facing up to the Challenges of Digital Engagement (PART 2)

Filed under: Uncategorized — Nanasha @ 2:52 pm

By Dr Eric Jensen, Associate Professor (Senior Lecturer), University of Warwick
(@JensenWarwick, e.jensen@warwick.ac.uk)

New goldfish bowlIn this blog post, I continue to engage with the report ‘In the goldfish bowl: science and technology policy dialogues in a digital world‘ (authors: Susie Latta, Charlotte Mulcare and Anthony Zacharzewski), which was commissioned by Sciencewise and published in 2013. This is part 2 of my critical review of this report. This part of my review focuses on the report’s conclusions about the benefits and limitations of digital methods for public dialogue. (more…)

February 11, 2014

Response to Eric Jensen’s review of the Goldfish Bowl

Filed under: Uncategorized — Nanasha @ 12:32 pm

By Susie Latta and Charlotte Mulcare from the Democratic Society

Blog picWe thank Dr. Jensen for interesting and thorough review our report, and hope that our responses will prove useful in extending the debate further.

Perhaps the most important point to make is that this report was never intended to provide an academic sociological report: Dr. Jensen correctly makes the observation that our arguments are forward looking and do not provide an academic paper focused on sociology. This was not the intention of our article, which was specific to the future of engagement in science policy, and how the internet can support it. Hence our evidence comes from political not academic sources, MORI polls and comprehensive reports collating research rather than single publications. Bearing this scope in mind, we believe that many of the omissions he mentions, although interesting points worthy of research, would not have been appropriate to cover given our remit. (more…)

February 7, 2014

Public views of the great eight technologies

Filed under: Uncategorized — Nanasha @ 9:22 am

By Monica Lobo, Science and Society manager, British Science Association

circuit-boards-design3Investment in technologies has the potential to contribute to the UK’s economic growth. But what does the public think?

‘The great eight’

In November 2012, the Chancellor of the Exchequer, George Osborne, described science as a driver of the UK economy. At his speech at the Royal Society he challenged the scientific community of Britain to lead the world in what are now known as ‘the eight great technologies’. These are: (more…)

January 30, 2014

Outside the Goldfish Bowl: facing up to the challenges of digital engagement (PART 1)

Filed under: Uncategorized — Nanasha @ 1:56 pm

By Dr Eric Jensen, Associate Professor (Senior Lecturer), University of Warwick
(@JensenWarwick, e.jensen@warwick.ac.uk)

New goldfish bowlThis set of blog posts comprise a review and critique of the Sciencewise-commissioned report entitled: ‘In the goldfish bowl: science and technology policy dialogues in a digital world‘ (authors: Susie Latta, Charlotte Mulcare and Anthony Zacharzewski), published in 2013. While the authors make some useful points, they exaggerate the ubiquity of digital technology, overstate the benefits of adopting digital dialogue approaches and understate the potential downsides. I argue for an understanding of the role of online technologies for dialogue in contemporary societies that is better grounded in sociological research. (more…)

January 20, 2014

The role of social media in public dialogue and policy

Filed under: Uncategorized — Nanasha @ 3:56 pm
Eric Jensen
e.jensen@warwick.ac.uk; @JensenWarwick
(University of Warwick)
As social media expand, policy makers and practitioners are increasingly considering what the role of platforms such as Twitter and Facebook should be in informing public policy. There are important limitations, as well as opportunities, involved in using such media as sites for dialogue and these are not well understood. Using social media to gain insights about public views and to host public dialogue offers the potential for involving a much larger number of participants. It also enables on-going participation from individuals over time, and even the possibility of unobtrusive consultation by drawing upon conversations that are already taking place online. In all these cases, the cost barrier for hosting public dialogues or consulting public views would be substantially lowered, when compared to the main alternative approach: face-to-face events with small numbers of people in one location.
Despite such potential benefits, social media-based approaches to public dialogue should not be embraced without careful consideration. However, the limitations of social media such as Twitter as a site for public dialogue and participation in policy deliberations are not well established. This leaves a number of important questions to be addressed:
How does the rapid global expansion in social media usage affect our understanding of the available means for conducting public dialogue?
Based on existing research and theory on the concept of the online public sphere (and deliberative democracy more generally), what is the potential for public dialogue to be conducted effectively within the context of social media? Where might social media-based public dialogue fit into a broader deliberative system?
What can be learned from existing research on efforts to conduct public dialogues online, and through social media in particular? For example, what is gained (e.g. lower costs) or lost (e.g. less depth) from moving public dialogue into this setting? To what extent is such dialogue already occurring within social media?
What are the particular characteristics of social media discourse, and what are the implications of these characteristics for public dialogue?
This blog post describes the Sciencewise-commissioned project I am currently undertaking to address these questions relating to social media’s role in public dialogue. I will be conducting a critical review of relevant theoretical accounts (especially focusing on the online public sphere) to identify the potential role for social media in a broader system of public dialogue, as well as reviewing existing research literature on online public dialogue (especially focusing on social media such as Twitter).
This project aims to establish a basis for policy makers’ decision-making about the use of social media in public dialogue as well as highlighting important directions for future research and evaluation. The project will be carried out using existing research and theory, which will be critically applied to the present topic and extended. So if you know of any research, relevant theoretical arguments or real life examples, you think I should take account of in my reviews, please do let me know by e-mail (e.jensen@warwick.ac.uk) or tweet (@JensenWarwick). The next blog post for this project will be a critical response to the previously published Sciencewise commissioned report on this topic, entitled ‘In the goldfish bowl: science and technology policy dialogues in a digital world’. If you have any thoughts on this paper, do please let me know through Twitter or by commenting on this blog.
Why I am interested in this topic
I am an Associate Professor (Senior Lecturer) in the Department of Sociology at the University of Warwick. Most of my published research is in the fields of media sociology, public engagement and impact evaluation methodology. I lead a Master’s module on ‘Researching Science, Media and Public Policy’, an undergraduate module on Media Sociology and I convene the department’s Social Research Methods module. For further details of my recent relevant research projects, please see: http://www2.warwick.ac.uk/fac/soc/sociology/staff/academicstaff/jensen/dialogue/#About

By Dr Eric Jensen, Associate Professor (Senior Lecturer), University of Warwick
(@JensenWarwick, e.jensen@warwick.ac.uk)

Social-Media-IconsAs social media expand, policy makers and practitioners are increasingly considering what the role of platforms such as Twitter and Facebook should be in informing public policy. There are important limitations, as well as opportunities, involved in using such media as sites for dialogue and these are not well understood. Using social media to gain insights about public views and to host public dialogue offers the potential for involving a much larger number of participants. It also enables on-going participation from individuals over time, and even the possibility of unobtrusive consultation by drawing upon conversations that are already taking place online. In all these cases, the cost barrier for hosting public dialogues or consulting public views would be substantially lowered, when compared to the main alternative approach: face-to-face events with small numbers of people in one location. (more…)

January 17, 2014

What are the important cross-cutting policy issues for public deliberation?

Filed under: Uncategorized — Nanasha @ 9:21 am

By Roland Jackson, Sciencewise Executive Chair (Twitter: @Roland_Jackson)

whitehallActually, the question I want to ask is slightly narrower than that. It comes at the end.

Sciencewise aims to bring the ‘public voice’ into policy and decision-making on issues involving science and technology. It seeks to do this in a deliberative manner, and in a way which contributes to better policy, reflecting the understanding and involvement of different publics. (more…)

January 15, 2014

What is ‘innovation’ when it comes to dialogue?

Filed under: Uncategorized — Nanasha @ 12:30 pm

By Andrew Acland, Dialogue and Engagement Specialist, Sciencewise

New PictureAs a Sciencewise Dialogue and Engagement Specialist (DES), I spend a lot of my time discussing possible dialogue methodologies with government clients and commercial contractors and writing Invitations To Tender (ITTs) for dialogue projects.
(more…)

January 14, 2014

Broadening dialogue: how Sciencewise could help us to define what is good transport policy

Filed under: Uncategorized — Nanasha @ 10:35 am

By Tom Cohen, UCL

transportIs HS2 a good project? What types of geo-engineering should take place? To me, these questions are not dissimilar. They both relate to major undertakings designed to achieve goals that are crucial to people’s livelihoods; they both involve substantial elements of uncertainty; and they both have very considerable technical components. But we’ve had a dialogue on one and not the other. Not that I’m suggesting a dialogue on HS2: we hardly need more debate concerning that scheme; well, certainly not debate of the quality that we’ve been getting. But the underlying question – what is good transport policy – has been given far too little attention. I believe we could learn much from citizens’ responses to how we currently select transport policies (both in theory and in reality). What would citizens think of the Hicks-Kaldor criterion, for example, which is based on winners potentially – but not actually – compensating losers? It may make a good deal of sense to the practised welfare economist but could excite a quite different response in the typical citizen. And a subsequent exploration of alternative ways in which we might approach decision-making in transport could be very fruitful, I think. (more…)