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