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FAQ 8: Do the public want to be involved?

Experience has shown that the public are interested in participating in science and technology issues, enjoy the process and see the value and importance of public dialogue.

A commonly cited concern is that citizens are disengaged from public institutions and won’t get involved even if there’s the opportunity to do so. While it is true that people have increasingly disengaged from public institutions, this does not reflect a lack of interest or desire to have a say.

Participants in the vast majority of public dialogues are remunerated for their involvement meaning there is an extra motivation for them to participate. However, many report being motivated to participate for a number of other reasons, and enjoy and value the experience being involved.

A study of public attitudes to science in 2011 found that 73% of the public agreed that government should act in accordance with public concerns about science and technology. And over a third (35%) agreed that for them, it is important to be involved in decisions about science and technology, which shows a significant level of personal enthusiasm for public engagement in science and technology from a significant proportion of the population.

Evaluations of public dialogues also show that public participants have an appetite for taking part, and enjoy and value being involved in what they consider to be important discussions. The vast majority of public participants (typically 90%-100%) support continued public involvement in discussions about science and technology.

Public participants often cite the deliberative dialogue approach itself as something they enjoyed and valued being a part of. They say that they particularly value the opportunity to engage directly with policy makers and experts

‘There was a widespread view that the deliberative process ought to be used more and that this would be healthy for public life and policy development.’ (Evaluation of Sciencehorizons dialogue)

“The dialogue opened my mind to science and what’s going on. It’s made me feel like I’d go again, no matter what was being talked about. It felt nice to be invited.” (Public participant, on Animals Containing Human Material dialogue)

“That was my first time taking part in something like that, but it wouldn’t be my last. I was impressed about the whole thing ... When it was over, you went, ‘oh, well, a bit more of that would do’. It was hours well spent. I enjoyed myself.” (Public participant, on Big Energy Shift dialogue)

“I think one of the main things is meeting a lot of other people with a lot of different views and altering my own views. It’s important to hear other people’s points of view.” (Public participant, on Drugsfutures)

Ipsos MORI (2011) Public Attitudes to Science 2011. Prepared for the Department for Business, Innovation and Skills. London: Ipsos MORI