My colleague, Dr. Michael Cobb, and I have been engaged in a research project aimed at adapting the Danish Consensus Conference practice in public deliberations about science and technology policy to the U.S. context. Since 1999, we have conducted 10 consensus conferences in the U.S., dealing with genetically modified foods, climate change, and nanotechnology. This has included the first‐ever consensus conference conducted via the Internet, the first that involved more than one site, and the first to use both face‐to‐face and Internet elements.

In March of 2008, we will conduct the first national scale consensus conference, this time dealing "Converging Technologies and Human Enhancement." This will be in conjunction with the Center on Nanotechnology and Society at Arizona State University. The project will involve six sites across the U.S. (at the University of New Hampshire, Georgia Tech, the University of W isconsin‐Madison, the University of Colorado‐Boulder, Arizona State University, and the University of California‐Berkeley). An independent panel of citizens will be formed at each site and asked to generate a set of policy recommendations for managing human enhancement technologies that all panelists can endorse.

Each panel will meet on the individual campuses for a preliminary weekend of face‐to‐face deliberations, and for a final weekend (also face‐to‐face) in order to write their final reports. Between these weekends, the panelists will get on‐line with each other for a series of two‐hour synchronous discussions. During these on‐line sessions, panelists will be able to exchange perspectives, interests, concerns, and possible policy recommendations with all of the other panelists. In addition, the panelists will be able to ask questions of a number of experts, who will also be on‐line.

The panelists will be recruited by newspaper advertisements, with individuals who are employed by or invested in any organization or business that is involved in human enhancement research, or who may be an active member of an advocacy group that has taken a public position on human enhancement, excluded. Representative, stratified panels will be selected from the all of the qualified volunteers. All panelists will complete a pre/post test questionnaire, intended to assess several aspects of their deliberations, including learning, attitude changes, and the possible presence of a number of well‐known affective and cognitive decision pathologies identified in small group psychology studies.

We propose that for your conference we will be able to report the earliest findings from this study, as well as discuss both empirically and theoretically the appropriate structure, organization, and role of public deliberations in the shaping of public policies concerning science and technology.

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Public Communication of Science and Technology

 

The first national citizens' technology forum on converging technologies and human enhancement
Adapting the Danish consensus conference in the USA

Patrick Hamlett   North Carolina State University

Michael Cobb   North Carolina State University

My colleague, Dr. Michael Cobb, and I have been engaged in a research project aimed at adapting the Danish Consensus Conference practice in public deliberations about science and technology policy to the U.S. context. Since 1999, we have conducted 10 consensus conferences in the U.S., dealing with genetically modified foods, climate change, and nanotechnology. This has included the first‐ever consensus conference conducted via the Internet, the first that involved more than one site, and the first to use both face‐to‐face and Internet elements.

In March of 2008, we will conduct the first national scale consensus conference, this time dealing "Converging Technologies and Human Enhancement." This will be in conjunction with the Center on Nanotechnology and Society at Arizona State University. The project will involve six sites across the U.S. (at the University of New Hampshire, Georgia Tech, the University of W isconsin‐Madison, the University of Colorado‐Boulder, Arizona State University, and the University of California‐Berkeley). An independent panel of citizens will be formed at each site and asked to generate a set of policy recommendations for managing human enhancement technologies that all panelists can endorse.

Each panel will meet on the individual campuses for a preliminary weekend of face‐to‐face deliberations, and for a final weekend (also face‐to‐face) in order to write their final reports. Between these weekends, the panelists will get on‐line with each other for a series of two‐hour synchronous discussions. During these on‐line sessions, panelists will be able to exchange perspectives, interests, concerns, and possible policy recommendations with all of the other panelists. In addition, the panelists will be able to ask questions of a number of experts, who will also be on‐line.

The panelists will be recruited by newspaper advertisements, with individuals who are employed by or invested in any organization or business that is involved in human enhancement research, or who may be an active member of an advocacy group that has taken a public position on human enhancement, excluded. Representative, stratified panels will be selected from the all of the qualified volunteers. All panelists will complete a pre/post test questionnaire, intended to assess several aspects of their deliberations, including learning, attitude changes, and the possible presence of a number of well‐known affective and cognitive decision pathologies identified in small group psychology studies.

We propose that for your conference we will be able to report the earliest findings from this study, as well as discuss both empirically and theoretically the appropriate structure, organization, and role of public deliberations in the shaping of public policies concerning science and technology.

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

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