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Sciencewise - the UK's national centre for public dialogue in policy making involving science and technology issues

Sciencewise is a BIS funded programme to improve Government policy making involving science and technology by increasing the effectiveness with which public dialogue is used, and encouraging its wider use where appropriate. We provide co-funding and specialist advice to help Government Departments and Agencies develop and commission public dialogue.

Following a competitive tendering process, Ricardo Energy and Environment, in partnership with Involve and the British Science Association was awarded the contract for the delivery of Sciencewise from 1 April 2012 to 31 March 2016.

The Sciencewise programme is delivered by a team of experts in public dialogue and engagement. This team brings together a wealth of expertise on all aspects of involving the public in decision making and policy development involving science and technology.

For those involved in decision making involving science and technology, there is increasing evidence of the benefits of involving the public in the process. Having the views and values of the public provides an additional evidence stream which will contribute to the development of the best possible policy.

However there are challenges associated with engagement with the public, and this is where we can help. Our specialists can help you decide:

Why is engagement with the public the right thing to do? We can share our experience from across Government on the value added by public engagement. How much conflict could you avoid as a result of an early engagement with the public? How valuable is it to economic growth to be making decisions and developing policies which are informed by an understanding of public attitudes?

What type of engagement with the public is appropriate? Is it best to have a dialogue or is the need more to communicate an existing policy?

How to do the engagement to solve your specific needs. How many people need to be involved, what is the best way to have the conversation, what locations are appropriate, and how do we define the public in this instance?

How to make sure the engagement is adding value. In order to contribute to decision making, the dialogue has to lead to credible and informative information. How should the engagement be framed? What are the questions to ask the public? What is the role for other stakeholders? How can you ensure that the dialogue is balanced and not biased in anyway?

When is it right to have a dialogue with the public. What aspects of your decisions or policy are open for consideration and what has already been decided? How open to being influenced by the views of the public are you?

How to evaluate and assess the impact of public engagement? What does success look like for a dialogue or engagement activity?

Whether you know enough about public engagement to make informed decisions? What is it all about, and is it right for me? We can use our expertise to mentor and support you or your team as you consider involving the public.

To help you overcome these challenges, BIS has set up the Sciencewise programme specifically to provide support to policy makers across Government. We offer:

• One to one advice on public engagement and dialogue.

• Advice and guidance on all aspects of best practice in dialogue with the public.

• Financial support of upto 50% of the cost of undertaking dialogue.

• Support to the successful management and delivery of dialogue projects.

• Mentoring and training to individuals and/or teams to help raise understanding and appreciation of the value and the opportunities for dialogue.