I’ve just finished my first week as the new Citizens and Science Programme Manager at Involve. I’m really excited about joining the Sciencewise team and helping to develop a wider programme of work to engage the public on new science and technology.
I’m from New Zealand where my work has been in public policy roles at the New Zealand Parliament, Treasury, and Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Trade. Outside of government, I’ve worked with civil society organisations on electoral reform and justice sector issues, and helped to establish a new advocacy organisation that uses online tools to engage the public.
Involve’s Citizens and Science programme fills a gap of growing importance. Governments around the world are focused on speeding the development of new science and technology in the hope that this will increase productivity and economic growth. Far less attention is paid to ensuring the public has a voice in shaping the direction of this new science and technology, or are comfortable with the impacts that it will have on the ways we live. Involve’s expertise in public engagement bridges this gap, giving citizens a voice in science through participatory processes and helping governments manage change by ensuring they have an accurate understanding of the public’s views.
Sciencewise is a ground breaking programme that works in this area. It helps policymakers engage the public through the use of public dialogue – a rich, two-way, conversation. I think this is at the cutting edge of public policy making. It’s crucial in the area of controversial new science and technology, but it is also relevant to a broader range of policy issues. That’s because it provides an essential source of evidence for the policy process – not only does it provide a snapshot of what the public thinks, it can also indicate how the public’s views might evolve as they learn more about an issue. So, I’m looking forward to working with the Sciencewise team to help promote the use of public dialogue as part of the civil service’s move towards open policy making.
I’ve only just moved to London and it’s a fascinating time to arrive for someone interested in politics and democracy, with public debate bubbling away on the future of Europe and devolution in the UK. It’s also been great to learn more about all the interesting work going on in the UK public sector around public engagement and open government, and I’m looking forward to sharing examples of this sort of work happening in New Zealand.