Latest News

Government CSA 2014 annual report recognises role of dialogue and Sciencewise

[Return to previous page]

The 2014 annual report by the Government's Chief Scientific Adviser, Mark Walport has extensive references to public dialogue and, to a lesser extent, to Sciencewise.

The main summary report does not specifically mention dialogue or Sciencewise. However, it does talk about the importance of work with the public, giving the example of the HFEA Mitochondrial Replacement project, which Sciencewise supported. This report says (pages 9-10):

"...the processes that society uses to decide about the implementation of new technologies and new infrastructures, and to discuss their risks and benefits, are not linear either. This takes us to a fourth challenge for legislation and regulation: how to legislate and regulate in the face of emerging technologies and in situations where 'science meets values".

The work of the HFEA in relation to the mitochondria replacement issue is summarised as follows:

"There is an important lesson to be learnt from this. It shows that a sophisticated regulator, empowered to conduct public debate as part of its work, can deliver advice over a prolonged period while both science and technology continue to evolve to enable new interventions and treatments. Because this area of science and application is in a domain loaded with values - especially deeply-help religious values - the regulator has worked alongside Parliament, which has debated the key issue and provided the underpinning legislation alongside the regulation. Although an elaborate process, it has allowed the United Kingdom to develop an approach to this difficult area of innovation and risk that is respected around the world."

Finally, the report concludes with a focus on working internationally, and continuing to promote public discussion and debate alongside scientific input (page 10):

"European regulators should seek independent advice. They should foster and promote public discussion and debate. The outcome of that debate should inform the regulator itself, policymakers and legislators."

The main evidence report includes significant coverage of dialogue, Sciencewise and public engagement more wide. It has a case study on synthetic biology (co-written by Roland Jackson); Tim O'Riordan's chapter (5) specifically covers the Sciencewise programme; Nick Pidgeon's chapter (8) specifically mentions deliberative dialogue; Judith Petts chapter (9) dwells extensively on public and wider engagement; and Lisa Jardine's chapter (12) is about the HFEA mitochondria replacement work. Andy Stirling's chapter (4) references the Sciencewise publication 'The Best of Sciencewise: reflections on public dialogue' (2014).

Lisa Jardine's chapter (12) includes the following:

"[the general support was] a quite remarkable outcome for such a contentious piece of clinical innovation. I believe that the painstaking way in which the various consultations were conducted was in large measure responsible for the unexpectedly consensual and positive outcome." (page 142)

"And what swayed the argument towards proceeding with regulations rather than delaying was the clear evidence that the public had fully participated in the process." (page 143)