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FAQ 2: When should and shouldn’t public dialogue be used?

Public dialogue is suitable when:

  • ‘Policy or decision makers are keen to listen to and take account of public views, as a contribution to more robust decisions based on a deeper understanding of public values and attitudes on the issues;
  • The decision, policy or service in question involves complex issues, uncertainty or conflicting beliefs, values, understanding, experience and behaviours; or where one viewpoint might otherwise dominate;
  • The decision will require trade-offs between differing policy options, and participants working together can explore in detail the implications of alternatives to result in a better-informed decision; or
  • The decision maker cannot make and implement a decision alone; there needs to be buy-in from others.’

Public dialogue should not be used:

  • When crucial decisions have already been made; or
  • If there is no realistic possibility that the engagement process will influence decisions.’

Public dialogue can only be effective and sustainable if citizens trust the process and believe that their contribution is heard and will make a difference. Sciencewise has a formal set of guiding principles that the public dialogues on science and technology it funds are required to meet.