Expertise, lay membership and thepolitics of engagementAlan Irwin
Phillips Report into BSE(2000) ‘ The Government did not lie to the public about BSE. It believed that the risks posed by BSE to humans were remote. The Government was pre- occupied with preventing an alarmist over-reaction… this campaign of reassurance was a mistake.’
Openness and transparency• ‘Openness requires recognition of uncertainty, where it exists’• ‘The public should be trusted to respond rationally to openness’• ‘Scientific investigation of risk should be open and transparent’• ‘Trust can only be generated by openness’• ‘The advice and reasoning of advisory committees should be made public’ Lord Phillips, 2000
Performing engagement• Greater transparency and openness• Public consultation exercises• Consensus Conferences• Science Shops• Constructive Technology Assessment• ’Lay’ membership on scientific advisory bodies• Debate installations• Large-scale public debates• Upstream activities
GM Nation?• Agriculture and Environment Biotechnology Commission as social innovation• Public debate: 3rd June – 18th July, 2003• Focus groups, open meetings, interactive web site, closed groups -> steering board final report (September 2003)• 37,000 feedback forms, 2.9 million website hits, 600 meetings
• 41 in-depth telephone interviews with stakeholders• 160 members of the public• 4 regional groups, each with 40 people• 3 workshops per group
‘the U.K. experience was prolonged, costly, and cantankerous. It did not touch the broad mass of the public. It suffered from agenda manipulation and did not reach conclusions that were seen as clear-cut or legitimate. It informed policies, but it did not guide them.’Walls, Rogers-Hayden, Mohr and O’Riordan, Environment. Sept2005, p.29
Tom Wakeford and Jackie Haq, NewScientist. June 23, 2010 ’serious flaws…in the way the dialogue was commissioned and conducted’• Commercial market-research approach• Discussions held in private• Scientific fear of the ’ignorant mob’• Absence of real dialogue
Irwin, Elgaard Jensen and Jones, Social Studies ofScience 43(1) 2013: 118-135 ’PES studies regularly conclude that the issues put to the publics are limited, that the actual involvement of the public is marginal and that institutional actors resist engagement by insisting that both science and innovation should remain unquestioned and beyond serious democratic control.’
Double EngagementImpasse• STS scholarship: ’case study followed by critical assessment’• Policymakers: over-loaded expectations leading to frustration and marginalisation
Public engagement waza• Move One : contesting representativeness – who are these people to speak for ‘the public’?• Move Two: contesting communication and articulation – can participants articulate their views in a proper and meaningful manner?• Move Three: contesting impacts and outcomes – does the exercise lead to tangible and significant outcomes?• Move Four: Contesting democracy – is this engagement or legitimation?
• Move One : contesting representativeness ‘the U.K. experience was prolonged, costly, and cantankerous. It did not• Move Two: contesting touch the broad mass of communication and the public. It suffered articulation from agenda manipulation and did not• Move Three: contesting reach conclusions that impacts and outcomes were seen as clear-cut or legitimate. It informed• policies, but it did not Move Four: Contesting guide them.’ democracy
Irwin, Elgaard Jensen and Jones (2013) ‘ PES proponents and their critics do not engage in kendo kata, and yet we find it plausible that their form of adversarial interaction contains some of the same aspects: a bounded pattern of critical moves, certain opportunities to anticipate criticism and characteristic sequences that arise out of the interaction between the opponents as they attempt to counter one another’s moves.’
Lay membership on ScientificAdvisory Committees (GB)
’Lay members can make the work of SACsmore transparent and aware of the social andpolicy issues surrounding their work. Laymembers can provide some common sense.Where committees get into really esotericthings that are frightfully interesting, but maybehave no real relevance to the great majority ofpeople in so far as they are affected, then thereis a role to play there.’
’ There’s a danger then of having fourteen non- representational people who were there to communicate the science and only one representational person who is there to represent the general public.’
‘Everybody brings to this committee baggage. Ifyou’re here long enough you will soon seesome assumptions coming out of some peoplefairly consistently. Some members are overtlyconservative for example.’
‘I do think that there might be a, a kind offundamental problem here which is if the politicalestablishment is interested in having lay peopleon scientific committees, then their interest indoing that is presumably grounded upon the ideathat they should be representative. This actuallygoes against the fundamental principles of anySAC – that people are not representative apartfrom representing their disciplines as it were; thatthey’re bringing their expertise.’
• Not all moves carry equal weight• Not claiming a complete typology• Challenging notion that engagement leads inevitably to consensus• Drawing attention to the disagreement and critique that is often a key constituent of action• Discussion following discursively-familiar tracks (cf ’closing down’, Andy Stirling: ’rationality or ritual’, Brian Wynne)
Expertise, lay membership and thepolitics of engagement• Engagement as an over-burdened activity (asking too much)• Significance of contextual sense- making• Institutional insularity• ’Waza’ are relatively content-free• Are PES scholars following old tracks or scouting new routes?
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