Science does not ‘just happen’ It is a social activity: Funding decisions Values associated with research directions In laboratory Social values and norms governing applications of research
Controversial biotechnology requiring policy Stem cell research GM crops Cloning Given that social policy affects us all, need mechanism to provide avenue for public voice to be included
“[D]eliberation is debate and discussion aimed at producing reasonable, well-informed opinions in which participants are willing to revise preferences in light of discussion, new information, and claims made by fellow participants. Although consensus need not be the ultimate aim of deliberation, and participants are expected to pursue their interests, an overarching interest in the legitimacy of outcomes (understood as justification to all affected) ideally characterizes deliberation.” Chambers (2003, p. 309)
What about town hall meetings? Why not use typical methods of social science inquiry (surveys, focus groups)? Lack of knowledge (obscure topics) Technical expertise (complex topics) Lack of homogeneity of public opinion Deliberation offers mechanisms to address these; in addition: Offers active role in governance
Microbial genomics and RDX pollution Human Tissue biobanks Salmon genomics
Large collections of tissue samples Blood, tumours, biopsy samples Extremely useful for health research Uncertainty regarding ethics protocols Informed consent Privacy Return of results Benefit sharing
Biomedical research Relies to large extent on public funding Relies on individuals’ participation; provision of samples, information Outcomes are dramatically changing social landscape
1. Who to invite? 2. How to inform them about the issues? 3. How to structure the conversation? 4. How to present the results?
Participatory democracy and inclusion Scarce democratic resources Construct of minipublic Random invitation & demographic stratification Shift from statistical representativeness to political legitimacy
Deliberation requires Time Money Good organisation Participants need to be comfortable and trust Each other The organisers The facilitator needs to know what’s going on!
4 days of deliberation Day 1: information and introduction to deliberation Day 2-4: deliberation in small and large groups Work towards consensus, but recognise and document persistent disagreement Ratify conclusions of participants
What information is provided to participants? ‘Neutral’ information may not be available Provision of range of available perspectives What questions are presented for deliberation? Open structure Narrow structure Guided structure
Booklet Speakers Bibliographies Ongoing contact with research team
Who decides what the result of the deliberation is? Thematic analysis of transcripts? Consultant/facilitator writes report? How do you know when you’ve reached consensus? Notion of Deliberative Output Importance of conceptualising format of outcomes clearly from the start
Uptake of deliberation results by BC BioLibrary Deliberation participants have become members of advisory boards Process of deliberation has been used in other jurisdictions