by Edward Andersson, Dialogue Manager for Sciencewise
On Monday I attended the launch of a new five-year programme of research, being led by the University of Nottingham and funded by the Leverhulme Programme, on Making Science Public.
For those of us interested in questions around the relationship between expertise, publics and policy-making, and how citizens might be engaged in policy involving science, this research programme should make for essential viewing (and perhaps, participation?).
The programme will be made up of ten projects, covering issues including:
• The relationship between science and politics, and the role of evidence in the policy process
• The framing of research agendas
• The role of the public in generating and adjudicating evidence for policy-making, and practising evidence based policy-making.
• The use of upstream engagement in the appraisal and governance of emerging food technologies
• The role of intermediaries in deliberating science and politics
• The negotiation of notions of socially responsible research through engagement with different publics
You can get a taste for the programme in this interesting article by Warren Pearce and Sujatha Raman, both from the University of Nottingham, on the LSE Impact of Social Sciences blog. It sets out how the Making Science Public programme will attempt to address questions around evidence-based policy-making, open policy-making and citizen engagement.
The launch event itself consisted of a day of talks and panel discussions on topics linked to Making Science Public, including a keynote speech by Professor Ulrike Felt from the School of Social Studies of Science at the University of Vienna. It is well worth having a look through this Storify of tweets from the day to see what was said.
One of the clearest messages, for me, to come out of Professor Ulrike Felt’s talk is the need to mix invited (i.e. formal engagement events, such as public dialogues) with uninvited engagement (i.e. bottom up participation from interested citizens) on science policy. This inevitably raises lots of questions, including about the appropriate roles of different types of publics in the policy-making process, which are linked to questions of representativeness and legitimacy, and methods that can be used for engaging with the “uninvited”.
This is something that we’ve been thinking a lot about at Sciencewise recently, and we have two think pieces in the pipeline that will help in working through some of these questions.
The first is a paper on questions of different publics and representativeness, which currently has the working title: “Which publics? When?” Specifically, it will explore the following questions:
• When and for what is the use of different publics legitimate?
• What is the value of involving publics other than representative samples?
• When and for what is a self-selected sample legitimate?
• What role can civil society groups or organisations (with no direct stake in an issue) play in engaging their members on an issue?
The second is a paper on digital engagement, and its role in relation to public dialogue. It will explore what digital engagement is, when it is appropriate, and how it should be put into practice.
For more information on both of these papers, check back on this blog next week when we will have guest posts from the authors.