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Why, when and how

Why do public dialogue?

If the UK is to take full advantage of the opportunities offered by scientific discovery and technological development for our economic and social wellbeing, it is crucial that we develop new approaches to bring the public together with scientists and policy makers in a constructive dialogue to explore emerging issues.

Public dialogue is a process carried out to inform the thinking of the policy maker and participants, and add to the body of evidence presented to Ministers.

When to do public dialogue

The simple answer is, as soon as possible. In the past, policy was written, and then went out to consultation, sometimes for the statutory 12 weeks, sometimes for longer. Nowadays, most policy makers involve stakeholders (representatives of organisations who can affect or are affected by the outcomes of the policy). However, very few departments, agencies or non-departmental public bodies involve the public consistently and at the right time when formulating policies.

Sciencewise-ERC is building a body of evidence that shows that the earlier a policy area is discussed with a group of citizens who have access to key scientists, pressure groups and other leaders in the field, the better and more robust that policy will be, and the more certain Government and Ministers can be that the policy will be successfully implemented.

The activity of dialogue differs widely from surveys, focus groups and some kinds of citizens’ panels because dialogue is always two-way. The scientists and stakeholders involved in a timely public dialogue process can use their interactions to inform their own direction and keep a finger on the pulse of public and stakeholder opinion.

How Sciencewise-ERC can help policy makers carry out dialogue

The Sciencewise-ERC is offering a range of support services to policy makers to help them identify and commission effective public dialogue. These include:

  • Advisory services provided by our Dialogue & Engagement Specialist  (DES) team, including one-to-one mentoring
  • Assistance in designing and developing dialogue projects, commissioning external contractors, monitoring and evaluating outcomes
  • Co-funding for dialogue projects (Government departments and Agencies only).
  • Provision of advice and guidance to non-funded projects
  • ‘Drop in for Dialogue’ - monthly lunchtime sessions for policy makers which include a themed session, lunch, general ‘drop-in’ session, and one-to-one mentoring (pre-bookable)
  • Workshops for politicians and policy makers including at Westminster and with the National School of Government
  • Sciencewise-ERC internal Government presentation sessions and network meetings eg with the Science and Society Champions’ Future Analysts Network (FAN) Club
  • Provision of evaluation frameworks tailored to individual projects and advice and guidance on embedding evaluation into dialogue processes
  • Project Managers’ workshops – to share learning and experiences
  • Provision of A4 Dialogue Packs
  • Quarterly e-newsletters