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6 July 2015

New methods to gather rapid input from the public

Filed under: — Posted by Nanasha @ 10:30am

By Anna Perman, Social Intelligence Area Manager, Sciencewise

As part of Sciencewise’s work this year, we’ve started a small series of experimental pilot projects to see if we can expand the range of methods that we recommend to policy makers. This will give them more ways to gather evidence about public views on policy involving science and technology.

We're doing this because while deliberative dialogue is the ideal, it’s not always possible – policies involving science and technology can be decided quickly, so there's not always time to formulate and complete a full dialogue project. So if policy makers need information quickly and cost-effectively, we need to be able to recommend more options for robust research than the deliberative dialogue model.

We started this a few years ago with our social intelligence reports, which synthesise existing evidence to bring out messages about what the public think. But they rely on the relevant research projects having already been done. If there’s no evidence out there, policy makers need researchers to ask the questions that are relevant to policy.

Over 2015-16 we’re going to pilot three new methods, to see if they can work to fulfil this need. The first is our ‘sounding board’ – a representative panel of people who are ready and waiting to participate in research. The other two are not quite ready to announce yet – watch out here for more about them as we run them.

Our idea is to try them out and see if they work. That is, can they:
•    Collect robust data on public opinion?
•    Give evidence that is trusted by policy makers?
•    Fit with policy makers’ budgets and timescales?

If they do, we’ll add them to our recommended methods for policy makers to commission for research into public opinion on policy involving science and technology. We’ll give guidance for people commissioning research and interpreting evidence about how to weigh these forms of evidence against deliberative dialogue.

If you’d like to know more about the pilots that we’re running, contact enquiries@sciencewise-erc.org.uk.

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