Research Councils UK (RCUK) commissioned Involve to conduct a review of RCUK dialogue and consultation exercises in order to identify what could be learnt more generally about public perspectives on emerging science and technology.

The Research Councils have a good deal of experience of public dialogues. Various independent dialogues have been conducted around major RCUK research areas such as nanotechnology, geoengineering and synthetic biology.

This review aimed to foster collective learning across the Research Councils about the impact of these dialogues. The learning from these past dialogues will inform the RCUK’s future public engagement practices.

This project had two outputs:

1. Public Dialogue Review: Lessons from public dialogues commissioned by the RCUK

Successful public dialogue can play a key role in supporting more open research governance and decision making, which is recognised to be a condition of wider public confidence in the research system. This report draws lessons from public dialogues, consultations, and other public engagement  exercises commissioned by the Research Councils since 2003. The purpose is to reflect on what has worked, in what ways dialogues have contributed to the goals of RCUK’s public engagement strategy, and what considerations should be given to designing the next phase of RCUK public dialogue support.

2. Doing Public Dialogue: A support resource for research council staff

This guide is designed to give practical advice based on the accompanying review of research council public dialogues and consultations. This guide is for research council staff who are involved, will be involved, or are interested in designing and delivering public dialogues. These dialogues could be for their research programmes, the conduct of research, or in governance and regulation of a research programme.

In delivery of this project we collaborated with the Centre for Science and Policy at the University of Cambridge and Dr. Jack Stilgoe, Senior Research Fellow at Exeter University Business School. The review and resource were supported by the Sciencewise Expert Resource Centre.

For more information about this project please contact simon@involve.org.uk