By Josephine Suherman-Bailey, Policy Analyst, Sciencewise
Whitehall policy makers are being called on to embrace new tools to open up policy-making. The Civil Service Reform Plan says open policy-making will become the default and the Cabinet Office is driving this agenda, calling on policy makers to be more collaborative, transparent, to go out and speak to service users and the wider public.
There are a range of public input tools out there. Some call for a more passive input, such as social media analysis, where you get a sense of conversations already happening. Then there are tools which give participants a more active involvement, such as citizen panels and citizens’ juries, where you ask people to think a bit more deeply about a specific policy area.
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.
By Alan Mercer, Sciencewise Programme Director, Sciencewise
In 2014/15, RPA carried out an independent evaluation of the overall activities, achievements and impacts of the current Sciencewise programme. Their report was published shortly before purdah at the end of March 2015.
By Diane Warburton, Sciencewise Evaluation Manager, Sciencewise
"The result of a public dialogue process is a deep understanding of public views on an issue. It provides a source of evidence that can be used in the policy process. This means stronger policies that are more likely to be accepted by citizens." Cabinet Office March 2015; Open Policy Making Toolkit.
By Sonia Bussu, Sciencewise Researcher
There is growing interest internationally in public engagement practice in science and technology. A number of countries are experimenting with different methods of engagement, through institutional channels and programmes or on the initiative of civil society. Across countries, this new enthusiasm for public engagement is often a response to regulatory failures, such as the GM controversy. But it also reflects the need to ensure new developments in science and technology, which can have profound societal repercussions, can be shaped through public input to respond better to societal needs and values.
By Alan Mercer, Sciencewise Programme Director
I am delighted to announce that Ricardo-AEA and our partners at Involve and the British Science Association have been awarded a 1 year extension by the Department of Business, Innovation and Skills (BIS) for the continued delivery of the Sciencewise programme. This contract will allow us to continue to support Government policy makers and to encourage the more widespread use of public dialogue in the development of policy involving science and technology.
By Reema Patel, Sciencewise Policy Analyst
I recently attended a public dialogue session run by Sciencewise on food systems – bringing together a group of 25 people with different demographic characteristics with experts and stakeholders to deliberate upon the challenges facing food supply across the world. The dialogues have been commissioned by the Government Office for Science with Which? - the consumer rights association - and their purpose was to better understand the public’s views on current food system problems, challenges and opportunities. Attending that day in my new role as a policy analyst for Sciencewise, I had the opportunity to make some observations about the nature of public dialogues, their uniqueness and the specific contributions that they make for enabling deeper conversation between policy-makers, decision makers and experts.
By Amy Pollard, Dialogue Manager, Sciencewise
Sciencewise made a commitment as part of the Open Government Partnership’s National Action Plan 2013-2015, to work more closely with civil society organisations. The wording of the commitment was:
Sciencewise will bring together civil society organisations to better understand how to involve them in public dialogue on science and technology policy. The programme will identify groups that come from different areas of the UK and certain sectors which will enable the programme to have as wide a reach as possible.
By Roland Jackson, Executive Chair - Sciencewise
The Commons Science and Technology Committee has published today its report on 'Advanced genetic techniques for crop improvement: regulation, risk and precaution'.
by Roland Jackson, Sciencewise Executive Chair
Sciencewise has now supported some 50 public dialogues on policy issues involving science and technology, ranging from energy and the environment to nanotechnology and synthetic biology. Almost regardless of the starting point, questions of regulation and governance are raised by members of the public. That is hardly surprising: regulatory systems exist to balance protection for people and the environment with the benefits of specific activities. Quite often benefits and risks fall asymmetrically, a challenge that participants in public dialogues are invariably quick to spot.