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Dilemmas of public participation in science policy

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Public participation is ubiquitous in many contemporary democratic societies – used for many purposes, and in many contexts, with particular and growing relevance for policy-making on science and technology issues. However, there is a dearth of evidence as to its qualities and benefits. We contend that the implementation and interpretation of participation faces a number of dilemmas that – together –undermine its successful adoption. In this paper, we identify and discuss six specific dilemmas that – together – may militate against the practice and development of good quality participation in science and technology policy, notably dilemmas of Timing; of Relevance; of Representation; of Evaluation; of Criticism; and of Impact. We theoretically account for these dilemmas and discuss their likely impacts. Finally, we provide some suggestions as to how the participation community might attempt to pre-empt difficulties due to these dilemmas and demonstrate participation effectiveness.
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Keywords: Public participation; dilemmas; evaluation; impact; public engagement

Document Type: Research Article

Affiliations: 1: GRE, Norwich, United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland 2: Education, University of Bath, Bath, United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland

Publication date: March 4, 2018

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