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UEA PhD thesis commends Sciencewise role and potential

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"Sciencewise is an important body in understanding the evolution of the UK Government's approach to public participation...

Sciencewise has built on its existing reputation, enjoying a higher profile and influence within Government. This has been supported by an increasing number and range of public dialogue projects and supporting activities, as well as the development of key strategic relationships with a number of important bodies in and around Government. Furthermore, Sciencewise's new found profile has enabled members of the programme to play an important role in recent debates about significant concepts and policy practices such as open policy, localism and evidence-based policy...

Its position as an increasingly significant body in defining and experimenting with approaches to democratic representation and policy-making in the UK".

Sciencewise provided access to all activities during 2013 to PhD student Helen Pallett. In November 2014, Helen provided a report to Sciencewise on its internal organisational learning mechanisms and its wider role. This report was published by Sciencewise in July 2014, to coincide with the publication of Helen's successful PhD thesis. Both are available via www.sciencewise-erc.org.uk/cms/sciencewise-evaluation, under the heading Learning from Practice. The report identified six key findings for Sciencewise:

1.      All Sciencewise actors feel that constant organisational learning and reflection is central for the programme’s continued success. However, the programme’s main procedures and measures of learning tended to focus more on the learning of other bodies over internal learning processes.
2.     The increased size of the Sciencewise programme in the 2012-2015 contract created new challenges for the management and promotion of learning within and around the programme.
3.      The 2012-2015 programme contract saw an increased focus on advocacy work within Sciencewise, which has had both positive and negative effects on organisational learning processes.
4.      The Sciencewise programme’s approach to evaluation has changed significantly creating the potential for evaluation to stimulate increased reflection and high-level learning.
5.      Many significant instances of learning and reflection in and around Sciencewise have come from unexpected places and processes, rather than from formal learning mechanisms.
6.      The model of outsourcing the work of public dialogue, thought leadership and other activities from the Sciencewise programme can potentially undermine opportunities for organisational learning.

The report concludes with three recommendations:

1.      Sciencewise can build on its current expertise and institutional memory to position itself at the fore-front of imagining and anticipating the possible futures of public dialogue and engagement
2.      The success of the ‘theory of change’ process during 2013 suggests that creating periodic organised opportunities for collective reflection and learning are constructive
3.      Adopting a conscious disposition of ‘experimentation’ would potentially help Sciencewise actors and the programme to reflect on and learn more systematically from current Sciencewise activities.