Public involvement in decision-making about science and technology

This research project tests practical models of public participation and deliberation for science and technology policy, framed by theories of science communication, deliberative democracy, participatory governance and collaborative learning.

Three deliberative events piloted a model of deliberative participation in decision-making about science funding. These events were shorter than most deliberative processes, based on a model tested in the United Kingdom. Although recruitment was aimed at broad representation, participants had more formal education than Australia’s average. Voting decisions were most influenced by potential benefits to society of the planned research, as well as participants’ understanding of plans presented. Some reported that their decisions were influenced by whether benefits would happen locally. Results suggested that participants’ voting decisions were more influenced by the research plans than who presented them. For further details see Public Engagement in Prioritizing Research Proposals: A Case Study, DOI: 10.1177/2158244014523791.

In 2010, the National Enabling Technologies Strategy funded Australia's first public dialogue about synthetic biology. A deliberative forum involved 70 members of the public discussing policy priorities about synthetic biology, informed by discussion with two scientists, a lawyer and an ethicist (videos of their presentations are available here). This research was in collaboration with Rachel Ankeny at the University of Adelaide.