October 12, 2009

Alan Mercer – Sciencewise-ERC programme Director blog

Filed under: Uncategorized — admin @ 10:26 am
Being the Programme Director for the Sciencewise-ERC is one of those jobs that really does continually enthuse and excite. Set up to stimulate the use of public dialogue by policy makers on science and technology issues, the Sciencewise-ERC is working with just about every possible stakeholder to get them involved, to get them interested and to get them using public dialogue. It means that each week I have a varied programme to plan and to manage.

On the one hand we have a team of Dialogue and Engagement specialists providing the expertise on public dialogue, on what it is and how to apply it. This team is 18 of the most informed and experienced individuals in the UK. Clearly with such knowledge they are all very clear on the future direction for dialogue, I suspect my job would be a lot easier if they all agreed which direction this should be. One thing they do have in common is enthusiasm and belief of the importance of dialogue and its role in policy making. For me it is very motivating and intellectually challenging to meet with this team and discuss issues around the Sciencewise-ERC.

This team plays a very important role in the Sciencewise-ERC support of dialogue projects. In the last few months the team has brought about a big increase in demand for Sciencewise-ERC support, and we are now involved in dialogue around many of the major science and technology issues facing the UK. We don’t claim to know the details of the science, around for example, synthetic biology, but that is why dialogue involves experts. For me, the thrill of these projects is that we helping policy makers develop better policy. Getting the public to have their say and to have an opportunity to influence policy can only be good for all of us. When we are talking about issues such as climate change, genetic modification, DNA and medical research, we all want to see the best possible policies.

Sciencewise-ERC is involved with many different stakeholder groups. At the moment we are preparing for an evening reception we are running with the Hansard Group. We have a group of 40 plus senior politicians, Lords and MPs attending to hear about our work. A great chance for us the spread the message and to get some supporters ‘in high places’ of dialogue and Sciencewise-ERC.

As a Government programme, being able to measure the success of Sciencewise-ERC is very important. Our dialogue evaluation expert is Diane Warburton, of Shared Practice, and over the next couple of months we will be working with Diane to assess just what impact we have had. This will involve a series of interviews, so Diane may get in touch with you, but anyhow if we have helped you in some way, we would be delighted to hear of the impact.

I am very confident that the evaluation will show how successful we have been, and I have to be hopeful that we will be able to make a strong enough case to BIS for continued support of this exciting initiative. Achieving the success to date is down to a lot of people, my colleagues at AEA providing the programme management, the DES team, key supporters especially Professor Kathy Sykes and her tireless championing of dialogue, and Karen Folkes and Marilyn Booth in BIS for their leadership and support.


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