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07/08/2007
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Public Dialogue on Science & Technology

The ten-year framework highlighted the importance that the Government attaches to greater public confidence and improved engagement in scientific research and its innovative applications. Greater engagement will identify public aspirations and concerns regarding the health, safety, environmental, ethical and social issues related to science and technology. It will help to inform Government policy and decision-making, and will also build understanding and appreciation of the wider benefits of science and technology to society.

The ten-year framework set an objective to:

  • Demonstrate improvement against a variety of measures, such as trends in public attitudes, public confidence, media coverage, and acknowledgements and responsiveness to public concerns by policy-makers and scientists

Achieving this objective is a long-term challenge and one of the biggest faced by both Government and the scientific community. In order to meet this, it is important to acknowledge that the public largely forms its opinions on the basis of issues that impact on their own experience. Action is therefore taking place across Government to establish meaningful indicators that are relevant to the public, scientists and policy-makers alike.

The ten-year framework announced that funding for science and society issues will more than double, from £4.25 million per year in 2005-06 to over £9 million in 2006-07.
 
Sciencewise

Sciencewise was launched at the BA Festival on 6th September 2004. Sciencewise is an OSI funded programme to bring scientists, government and the public together to explore the impact of science and technology in our lives. The programme is currently supporting seven projects:

  • sciencehorizons – engaging the public in dialogue about the implications of future science and technology (led by Dialogue by Design)
  • Brain science, addiction and drugs – dialogue between citizens and scientists to explore the future of psychoactive substances (led by the Academy of Medical Sciences)
  • The Nanotechnology Engagement Group (NEG) – drawing general lessons from public engagement on nanotechnologies (led by Involve)
  • Nanodialogues – four experiments in upstream dialogue on nanotechnology and emerging technologies (led by Demos)
  • Citizen x-change – a series of workshops where citizens meet to discuss issues involving science (led by the British Association for the Advancement of Science)
  • Science Communication Working Lunches – sharing good practice, developing skills and networking among science engagement practitioners (led by the British Association for the Advancemnet of Science)
  • Risky Business – exploring differeing perspectives on risk (led by Sheffield Hallam University)
  • Trustguide – exploring citizens’ views on the secure sue of information and communications technology (led by HP) – project almost completed

Further detail is available from the Sciencewise website under external links on the right.

Expert Resource Centre for Public Dialogue on Science and Innovation

The Pre-Budget Report, published on 6 December 2006 announced the establishment of an expert resource centre for public dialogue on science and innovation.

This follows the Government’s response to the Council for Science and Technology’s 2005 report Policy Through Dialogue. In the response, the Government undertook to take forward the CST’s recommendation to develop a ‘corporate memory’ on public dialogue on science and technology.

A scoping and feasibility study led by the Sciencewise programme management team and steered by the Sciencewise Strategy Group, chaired by Professor Kathy Sykes (who is also a member of the CST), during the first half of 2006 recommended the establishment of a learning resource that would function across government (including departments, agencies and NDPBs). This would build capacity and learning regarding the value, methods and use of public dialogue in informing policy and decision-making on scientific and technological issues.

The Expert Resource Centre will operate as a ‘virtual’ resource and will be developed initially through the existing Sciencewise programme, with the Sciencewise Strategy Group continuing to advise on the aims and functions of the Centre.