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Minister supports public dialogue around robotics and Sciencewise role

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The Robotics and Autonomous Systems Special Interest Group (RAS-SIG) was created in 2012 by the Technology Strategy Board - now Innovate UK. RAS are one of the 'Great 8' Technologies supported by BIS. In July 2014, the RAS-SIG published a UK Strategy. This included the assessment that the application of advanced robotics could generate a potential economic impact of $1.9 trillion to $6.4 trillion per year by 2025 - resulting from improved health, new products and transforming the way in which products are built and services are delivered.

In welcoming the Strategy, the then Minister for Universities, Science and Cities at BIS and Cabinet Office - the Rt Hon Greg Clark MP - addressed the (then) Government's position on each recommendation and outlined recent progress.  Specifically, the Minister responded in response to Recommendation 7 in the Strategy which was to 'Extend outreach and public engagement to continue changing public perceptions and improve understanding of public concerns.' The Government response referred directly to Sciencewise and to the social intelligence paper Sciencewise produced in 2013. The response says:

"The Government is supportive of initiatives which will enable and develop public dialogue around RAS. An example of this is the Sciencewise programme, funded by BIS, to support public bodies to commission and use public dialogue to improve the public’s ability to engage with complicated scientific issues and use the public’s opinion to inform policy. As you are aware, the Sciencewise ‘Robotics and Autonomous Systems: What the public thinks’ review1 provides a current overview on the views and values of the Public on RAS and is a cornerstone for future activities.  ..."

"It is clear that the public’s curiosity in science is growing and can readily access information about research. They are the ultimate customer of new and emerging technologies and, without their support no technology can fulfil its potential. I therefore recommend that the Special Interest Group continues to engage in public dialogue and further explores the range of public values and concerns, and the social and ethical implications of RAS."

In the new Government, Greg Clark has been appointed Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government. In what may be a linked development, another Sciencewise project (by the What Works Centre for Wellbeing (WWCW) dialogue) reports that CLG have asked for a briefing paper for Ministers on the CLG strand of that WWCW dialogue.