Over the last decade public engagement has gone from a novel activity to a much more established field. Yet organisations still often approach engagement in a haphazard and inconsistent way. There is still a need for support, training and advice for policy makers who are committed to engagement. As Helen Pallet argues on the Democratic Audit blog Sciencewise –the UK’s expert resource centre for public dialogue on issues relating to science and technology – is one of the few support centres for participation to survive the government cuts of the last few years. This makes it all the more important. The programme has supported dozens of policy teams since 2005; at the moment Sciencewise is supporting policy makers to engage with the public on issues as varied as Bovine TB and Leap Seconds!
Over the past two years I have been involved in the development and promotion of a great amount of SW resources. I thought it was worth pulling together a blog post to summarise what is available:
Tim Hughes pulled together these excellent Dialogue FAQs –they answer some of the most common questions about dialogue and summarise the evidence coming out of upwards of 10 years of Sciencewise activity. They are a great timesaver and are very easy to read. Worth sharing with sceptical colleagues!
The ‘In the goldfish bowl: science and technology policy dialogues in a digital world’ publication by Susie Latta, Charlotte Mulcare and Anthony Zacharzewski is an excellent overview of a number of digital engagement methods and their strengths and weaknesses.
‘Experts, publics and open policy-making: Opening the windows and doors of Whitehall’, by Simon Burall, Tim Hughes and Jack Stilgoe provides a useful insight into the concept of open policy making and how it relates to dialogue and engagement.
‘Which Publics? When? Exploring the policy potential of involving different publics in dialogue around science and technology’, by Alison Mohr, Sujatha Raman, Beverley Gibbs from the University of Nottingham asks some difficult but important questions. The document questions the common assumption that there is ‘the public’ out there, with fixed and cohesive views, waiting to be discovered.
Most dialogue and engagement takes place over a relatively short period of time. ‘Dialogue for governance and regulation: Engaging citizens for the long term’, by Ingrid Prikken and Simon Burall makes the case for more sustained engagement of citizens and outlines what this might look like.
Finally the ‘Mapping the new terrain: Public dialogue on science and technology’ Anthology (edited by Simon Burall and Tim Hughes) looks at a wide range of issues pertaining to dialogue, including Civil service reform, localism and open data. A great introduction to many areas.
Those are the existing resources. Also, keep an eye out for the new resources coming up from Sciencewise. You can see an overview of these on the Sciencewise website.