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Quality in public dialogue: a Framework for assessing the quality of public dialogue

This new edition of the Sciencewise Quality Framework (published March 2016) provides guidance on assessing the quality of public dialogue. It is designed to sit alongside and supplement the Sciencewise Guiding Principles.

Download the document here

The Framework has been developed on the basis of learning from Sciencewise project evaluations over recent years, and in consultation with government departments, practitioners, academics and those across the Sciencewise team.

The framework draws extensively on existing guidance, particularly from HM Treasury's Quality in Qualitative Evaluation: a framework for assessing research evidence (published by HM Treasury in 2012 as supplementary Magenta Book guidance), and the Sciencewise Guiding Principles. It broadly  follows the structure of the Sciencewise Guiding Principles in covering context, scope and design, delivery, impact and evaluation.

The Sciencewise Framework provides a set of questions on public dialogue practice, designed to stimulate thinking and open up design options. It is not intended to be prescriptive, limiting or bureaucratic. The focus throughout is on the basic design and delivery elements which are common to many public dialogue projects.

Throughout the Framework, detailed notes are provided to illustrate or demonstrate particular points. These are not definitive and are provided simply to show how the particular issue has been addressed successfully in the past.

The creation of this Framework has been driven partly by the findings from evaluations of public dialogue projects supported by Sciencewise. These evaluations have identified specific questions about the rigour and quality of dialogue processes, and the implications of those questions for the extent to which dialogue results can be used with confidence to inform public policy decisions.

More generally, this Framework is a recognition that processes that produce evidence for policy decision-making need to be rigorous and impartial, relevant, accessible, legal and ethical. All forms of evidence for policy making need to be assessed against these sorts of standards, and public dialogue is no different. At the most basic level, rigour and impartiality require the processes producing evidence for policy making to be quality assured, to guarantee the quality of the outputs.

This new edition of the Framework takes into account experience of using with the framework over the past year, and new input from a range of academics, government departments and practitioners, in order to provide an improved approach to a quality assurance process for public dialogue. We hope it will be of use:

•    Before starting a public dialogue, as an introduction to the basic building blocks of quality public dialogue for those interested in using dialogue to inform policy and decision making

•    At the beginning of designing and delivering a public dialogue, as a checklist for practitioners

•    During the design phase of a public dialogue, as a checklist to enable policy makers and others to test the robustness of the design of a specific dialogue process

•    In planning and delivering an evaluation of a public dialogue, as a checklist against which to formally evaluate the quality and good practice of dialogue projects

•    As a contribution to the wider development of methods to assess the quality of public participation more generally

For more information, and to provide feedback on the Framework, please contact Diane Warburton, Sciencewise Evaluation Manager at