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31 March 2016

Public views to inform policy - toolkit

— Posted by @ 6:00pm

By James Tweed, Sciencewise Programme Manager

When policymakers are in the process of making policies on science and technology, they may wish to take account of the views and values of the public. To help out with knowing where to start, we have developed a public views toolkit to point to a range to tools and approaches that policymakers can use to take account of public views and values.
 
The toolkit does not aim to present all the tools that could be used to find out about or understand the views and values of the public. We have included a range of specially selected tools, and a way to work out which one would suit a policymaking issue best. We have provided links to where more information can be found on individual tools and on related tools.
 
The structure of the toolkit has been informed by that of the Open policy making (OPM) toolkit developed by the Cabinet Office. The current public views toolkit is intended to complement the OPM toolkit. The OPM toolkit is in the form of a manual that includes information about Open Policy Making as well as the tools and techniques policy makers can use to create more open and user led policy. Some tools for public views and values are also in the open policy making toolkit. In these cases, a short description of the tool is given in the Public views toolkit, together with a link through to the description in the Open policy making toolkit.
 
We have designed it so that when considering which tool to use and when, policy makers start with the question ‘What am I trying to achieve by bringing public views into this specific policy making process?’. The answer to this question is dependent on many factors, including:
 
•    Who they wish to engage: the general public; those that have an interest in the policy area already; those representing key interests?
•    What they wish to achieve: find out about the views of the public; understand why they hold those views; work with them to co-create solutions?
•    What kind of evidence is sought: richly qualitative: largely quantitative?
The available timescale and resource will also influence choice of tools.
 
Considering the purpose is a first step in drawing up a shortlist of suitable tools, which can then be compared on their individual characteristics in the context of the policy issue.
 
Our research shows that when seeking to take account of the views and values of the public, policy makers find it valuable to use a mix of tools, to provide a range of forms of evidence. As an example, the Human Fertilisation and Embryology Authority (HFEA) in considering mitochondria replacement used deliberative dialogue, opinion poll, open meetings, focus groups and written consultation to obtain public views and values. The advice provided to government drew on evidence from those five methods. Reports of all strands of evidence on mitochondria replacement together with a summary of the evidence and advice for Government are at www.hfea.gov.uk/9359.html
 
We hope that the public views toolkit will provide a good starting point for policy makers to consider the options available to them for taking account of the views and values of the public

31 March 2016

Science Museum event, ‘Drones: What’s next?

— Posted by @ 4:30pm

By Anna Perman, Sciencewise Flexible Tools Manager

From the moment attendees arrived at the Science Museum event, ‘Drones: What’s next?’, cartoonists were asking them about their opinions, and creating drawings to represent what they heard. Rather than sitting, passively listening to talks, they were asked by facilitators, ‘what do you think of the drone demonstration?’, ‘What are your concerns?’ Representatives from the Department for Transport were sitting on tables with them, hearing the conversations and asking and answering questions.

31 March 2016

Quality Framework

— Posted by @ 12:00pm

By Diane Warbutton, Sciencewise Evaluation Manager

Sciencewise recognises that processes designed to inform and influence public policy and decision-making – including public dialogue - need to be rigorous and impartial, relevant, accessible, legal and ethical, and that all such processes need to be assessed against agreed standards. At the most basic level, rigour and impartiality require quality assurance of these processes to guarantee the quality of the outputs.

A new edition of the Sciencewise Quality in Public Dialogue Framework, published in March 2016, is designed to provide an improved approach to a quality assurance process for public dialogue.

The Framework has been developed on the basis of learning from Sciencewise project evaluations over recent years. This new edition of the Framework takes into account experience of using the framework since the launch of the initial working paper published in March 2015. It also builds on new input from a range of academics, government departments and practitioners.

The Framework provides a set of questions on the context, scope and design, delivery, impact and evaluation of public dialogue practice, designed to stimulate thinking and open up design options. It is not intended to be prescriptive, limiting or bureaucratic but to provide ways of addressing the basic questions that are very often asked of public dialogue including:

•    How many is 'enough' participants or locations?
•    Should the role of scientists and other specialists involved in dialogue events primarily be to provide information, or should they also be participants in the dialogue?
•    What makes a dialogue 'deliberative' and how much time needs to be given to providing information to participants compared to time for discussion?
•    To what extent should dialogue processes include non-deliberative techniques such as polling techniques, and attempt quantitative analysis to present what is inherently a qualitative process (e.g. measures of scale to demonstrate strength of feeling)?
•    What forms of analysis and reporting are appropriate and what role do participants have in reporting dialogue results (e.g. reports based on agreements reached collectively among or with participants)?
•    What will count as sufficiently robust processes to enable decision makers to be able to know how and when to use dialogue results with confidence in decision making alongside other forms of evidence?

We hope the Framework will be of use as initial briefing on what public dialogue involves, as a checklist for those designing and delivering public dialogue – and for those who want to test the robustness of a dialogue project at all stages of planning, design, delivery and evaluation.

9 March 2016

We trained 560 policymakers about dialogue; but what did we learn?

— Posted by @ 8:30am

By Reema Patel, Sciencewise Policy Analyst

It’s been just over a year since Sciencewise began working to embed its capacity building and training programme for policymakers across the Civil Service. Since then, we’ve expanded our offer – delivering extended sessions and half day sessions on dialogue, as well as developing bespoke materials for specific cross-departmental issues of interest; such as the public’s voice on data. We’ve also adapted the way that people can participate – running ad hoc events, webinars and workshops where we felt they had potential for a wider or better reach.

24 February 2016

Public views about low carbon heat technologies – Sciencewise Sounding Board

— Posted by @ 1:00pm

By Reema Patel, Sciencewise Policy Analyst

Sciencewise recently delivered an online deliberative discussion in partnership with the Committee on Climate Change, an independent statutory body which advises the government on reducing the UK’s emissions. We engaged 17 participants in dialogue and discussion through the Sounding Board, Sciencewise’s tool for online deliberative engagement. This was our second pilot of the Sounding Board; having run our first pilot with the Department for Business, Innovation and Skills and the Department for Education successfully as a proof of concept, we were keen to build on lessons learned to test and develop the model further.

12 February 2016

Dialogues that improved my wellbeing

— Posted by @ 9:00am

By Robin Clarke, Sciencewise Dialogue and Engagement Specialist

During 2015 Sciencewise provided support for six public dialogues held across the UK by the What Works Centre for Wellbeing. The Centre had been established in 2014 to build the evidence base for what works when seeking to improve people’s wellbeing, and then passing this on to policy makers to factor into their work. In essence the Centre is about providing advice about how to improve the quality of people’s lives and how public bodies, businesses, communities and individuals can play their role in achieving this.

9 February 2016

Drones a public dialogue

— Posted by @ 9:00am

By Sam Hinton, Sciencewise

Last week I travelled to Salisbury to attend my first Sciencewise funded public dialogue event.

The daylong event was the second of three workshops being held in Salisbury as part of a public dialogue on the use of drones, which has been commissioned by the Department for Transport (DfT) and the Ministry of Defence (MoD) with support from Sciencewise.

15 October 2015

Where next for GM Insects?

— Posted by @ 3:12pm

By Roland Jackson, Sciencewise Executive Chair

On 13 October I had the privilege of appearing before the House of Lords Science and Technology Committee inquiry on GM Insects on behalf of Sciencewise, in the company of Sarah Hartley of the University of Nottingham and Sue Hartley of the British Ecological Society. The focus of the session was on public awareness and engagement, and the lessons from the experience of debates on GM crops. The written evidence from Sciencewise, with all the others, is here.

15 October 2015

Sciencewise at Civil Service Live 2015

— Posted by @ 3:00pm

By Robin Clarke, Sciencewise Dialogue and Engagement Specialist

Sciencewise recently hosted a series of very well attended workshop sessions at both Civil Service Live in London and Edinburgh. Civil Service Live is the largest learning event for UK civil servants. The main aim of our sessions was to outline how public dialogue can be part of the evidence base for better policy making and hopefully mean that difficult policy decisions can move forward avoiding the uncertain and often unsuccessful ‘decide, announce and defend’ mode of operating.

12 October 2015

Digital public engagement: lessons from the Sounding Board

— Posted by @ 3:12pm

By Reema Patel, Policy Analyst, Sciencewise

Last week Sciencewise ran its first pilot of the Sounding Board, an online discussion panel of 20-24 people feeding into a complex science and technology issue. The pilot engaged a group of people of 23 participants from a broad range of ages groups, geographical locations and educational backgrounds. The whole Sounding Board process, including scoping out policy questions, engaging members of the public and reporting on results, will be completed over a period of 6-8 weeks. Our hope is that this streamlined engagement process will make the Sounding Board a useful, responsive and cost-effective tool for policy makers who are seeking early and rapid public input into their policy decisions.

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