For the past ten years the UNITED KINGDOM government has sponsored a series of public deliberation activities around new and emerging science topics. Gaining insight into public perceptions of these issues and broadening the views feeding into policymaking is often given as a reason why such activities are commissioned. But despite being important to the commissioners and end users of these activities, the question of what was discussed in deliberative activities is often overlooked in evaluations in favour of more measurable questions about how the deliberation proceeded. So what has been discussed in these deliberations about new and emerging science and technologies and what lessons can we learn from deliberative exercises about how the public think about these issues? This paper aims to begin to address these questions. Using a Computer Assisted Text Analysis (CATA) technique, we look at the complete outputs of the UNITED KINGDOM’s ScienceWise programme of public dialogue events and consider what has been the substance of more than 10 years of UNITED KINGDOM discussions around science and technology. We consider whether there are any overarching perspectives emerging from these discussions, whether they can tell us anything about the way in which participants think about and conceptualise new and emerging science and technologies and, importantly, whether these insights relevant to policy.

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Public Communication of Science and Technology

 

Talking about science
Issues raised in United Kingdom public deliberation

Melanie Smallman   University College London

For the past ten years the UNITED KINGDOM government has sponsored a series of public deliberation activities around new and emerging science topics. Gaining insight into public perceptions of these issues and broadening the views feeding into policymaking is often given as a reason why such activities are commissioned. But despite being important to the commissioners and end users of these activities, the question of what was discussed in deliberative activities is often overlooked in evaluations in favour of more measurable questions about how the deliberation proceeded. So what has been discussed in these deliberations about new and emerging science and technologies and what lessons can we learn from deliberative exercises about how the public think about these issues? This paper aims to begin to address these questions. Using a Computer Assisted Text Analysis (CATA) technique, we look at the complete outputs of the UNITED KINGDOM’s ScienceWise programme of public dialogue events and consider what has been the substance of more than 10 years of UNITED KINGDOM discussions around science and technology. We consider whether there are any overarching perspectives emerging from these discussions, whether they can tell us anything about the way in which participants think about and conceptualise new and emerging science and technologies and, importantly, whether these insights relevant to policy.

A copy of the full paper has not yet been submitted.

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