Do public perspectives change depending on what technology they’re being asked about?

Review of Research Councils UK Dialogues
RCUK, Sciencewise, the Centre for Science and Policy at the University of Cambridge and Dr. Jack Stilgoe
January 2012 - June 2012

There have been a large number of public engagement processes and dialogues carried out across many areas of emerging scientific and technological innovation, but we don’t know public responses are totally dependent on the technology in question, or if some are more basic and relate to any innovation. 

In order to explore this question, Research Councils UK (RCUK – now UKRI) commissioned Involve to conduct a review of RCUK dialogue and consultation exercises in order to explore whether there are any public perspectives which are more common across many areas of innovation.

Public engagement is an important part of ensuring that policy which guides technological innovation takes into account public perspectives, and hopes and fears. However, it is also relatively expensive to commission.

This project therefore aimed to explore whether there are particular sets of questions and perspectives which the public raise in general across different areas of technological innovation.

In partnership with Cambridge University’s Centre for Science and Policy, we reviewed the findings from 14 RCUK public dialogues and consultations to identify and draw out any common responses. The resulting report, Public Dialogue Review: Lessons from public dialogues commissioned by the RCUK, identifies eight common responses, or sets of questions, the public will often identify and ask when deliberating on technological innovation. The review identifies that public dialogues have had significant impacts on the research councils which commissioned them, but that there are five organisational factors that are critical if they are to have an impact.

Based on this review, we also developed a guide, Doing Public Dialogue: A support resource for research council staff, designed to support research council staff involved in, or will be involved in, in designing, commissioning or delivering public dialogues.  

Who was involved

Partner and funders:  RCUK, Sciencewise, the Centre for Science and Policy at the University of Cambridge and Dr. Jack Stilgoe, now at UCL.

Photo by Ousa Chea on Unsplash