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What has been the impact of public dialogue in science and technology on UK policymaking?

Smallman, ML; (2016) What has been the impact of public dialogue in science and technology on UK policymaking? Doctoral thesis, UCL (University College London). Green open access

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Abstract

In this research, I set out to understand more about how society influences the course of science and technological development. Specifically, I wanted to know whether the UK’s 10 year-long experience with public dialogue has brought science policy closer to the values of the public. Using a computer assisted text analysis technique, I have looked at the substance of the discussions that take place within these dialogue events and compared them to analogous expert and policy discussions, not only to understand how these discussions have impacted on policy, but also to shed light on how we as a society learn to live with technoscientific developments and on how expertise and evidence is understood, valued and used in policy. I have found that public dialogue has had little effect on policy for three reasons: Firstly, the public in these debates describe a sociotechnical imaginary of science that is more complicated, less manageable and therefore more difficult to fit into policymaking structures and objectives than the imaginary described by scientific experts; Secondly, since they do not come from ‘experts’, the outputs of public dialogue are not considered to be appropriate sources of evidence by policymakers; Thirdly, public dialogue activities take place outside the networks from which UK policymakers draw advice. The outputs of public dialogues do however show that the activities generate some interesting discussions and that the public do have contributions to make to public policy around science and technologies. I conclude that to increase impact, thought needs to be given to the type of decisions that dialogues seek to influence, to engage policymakers in discussions about the sociotechnical imaginaries that are shaping their perceptions of policy and the public, and to ways in which public dialogue can be brought into policymaking networks and coalitions.

Type: Thesis (Doctoral)
Title: What has been the impact of public dialogue in science and technology on UK policymaking?
Event: UCL
Open access status: An open access version is available from UCL Discovery
Language: English
Keywords: science policy, public engagement, public dialogue, public understanding of science, Science and Society, democractisation, public participation, sociotechnical imaginaries, Iramuteq, Computer assisted text analysis
UCL classification: UCL > School of BEAMS
UCL > School of BEAMS > Faculty of Maths and Physical Sciences
URI: http://discovery.ucl.ac.uk/id/eprint/1473234
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