Sciencewise is the UK government's internationally recognised public engagement programme which enables policy makers to develop socially informed policy with a particular emphasis on science and technology. It is led and funded by UK Research and Innovation.
Problems and Purpose
Sciencewise is led and funded by UK Research and Innovation, with support provided the Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy (BEIS) within the UK Government. It helps the government engage with the public on policy issues involving science and technology, providing co-funding, guidance, advice, training and mentoring on projects to bring in the public voice and help policy makers carry out public dialogues.
The main aims and objectives, according to the Sciencewise website, are to help those that are involved in policy so that:
- Policy is more socially informed, making it more robust and credible with less chance of negative social impacts.
- Policy is more publicly acceptable because it is developed with an understanding of how and why the public is likely to react, where they will draw the line, where are the issues of conflict and consensus, and what the public suggest will and will not work in practice.
- Policy is more cost effective in the long term, because the likelihood of future unforeseen conflict is reduced and final decisions are easier to implement as they are based on the best possible knowledge from a range of sources.
Sciencewise has established a wealth of evidence on the value of public dialogue in policy involving science and technology. Its aim is to ensure that this expertise is available across Government and its agencies ensuring best practice in the commissioning and implementation of dialogue.
Background History and Context
Sciencewise evolved from an original Sciencewise Programme, which was set up in response to the House of Lords' (a chamber of the UK's parliament) 2000 Science and Technology Committee report ‘Science and Society’. The report highlighted the importance of public input into challenging areas of new and emerging science and called for much more meaningful engagement between scientists, policy makers and the public.
The ten-year Science and Innovation Investment Framework, published in 2004, subsequently recommended a more systematic approach to public dialogue to address the impact on citizens of rapid scientific developments. In 2004, the Sciencewise Programme was set up to fund public dialogue projects that facilitated ‘upstream engagement’ i.e. finding out people’s attitudes and aspirations before major policy decisions are made.
In 2005, the Government’s Council for Science and Technology (CST) report recommended that public dialogue projects should be more effectively embedded into policy making and structures processes. The CST Called for an explicit framework for the use of public dialogue to inform science and technology and related policies. In December 2006, the Government announced its intention to set up a new Expert Resource Centre for Public Dialogue in Science and Innovation and this led to the establishment of the Sciencewise-ERC (Expert Resource Centre) in May 2007. This ran until 2012.
2012- 2015: Ricardo Energy and Environment (EAE), in partnership with Involve and the British Science Association are awarded the contract for the delivery of Sciencewise from April 2012 to March 2016. The overall agreed objective is described as follows:
To improve policy making involving science and technology across Government by increasing the effectiveness with which public dialogue is used, and encouraging its wider use where appropriate [to ensure public views are considered as part of the evidence base].
2017- 2019: The Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy (BEIS) selected Involve to run the Sciencewise programme.
Organizing, Supporting, and Funding Entities
The Sciencewise Programme is led and funded by UK Research and Innovation (UKRI), with support provided by the Department for Business, Innovation and Skills (BEIS). The delivery of each dialogue project involves different organisations, with Sciencewise providing up to 50% of the funding. In 2017 the Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy selected Involve to run the Sciencewise programme from 2017-2019. Sciencewise provides up to 50% of the funding for individual dialogue projects, the delivery of each project involves other organisations.
Participant Recruitment and Selection
The Sciencewise programme encompasses a range of diverse projects, with different needs and consequently methods regarding recruitment and selection of participants. Recruitment is typically performed by specialist organisations with guidance from Sciencewise and organisations delivering the particular case.
One principle of public dialogues outlined by the Scienceiwse programme is ensuring participants are representative of a diverse range of backgrounds and views. Consequently public dialogues tend to recruit participants using demographic and attitudinal criteria, rather than self-selecting.
Methods and Tools Used
The Sciencewise Programme has been involved in a wide variety of dialogue cases that have employed various methods and tools, Sciencewise will typically provide support and expertise in the development of methodologies, including the development of a toolkit for those seeking to deliver a public dialogue.
The Sciencewise programme is the UK Government’s exemplar of how to develop robust evidence on public views to inform policy development in areas of scientific and technological innovation. Established in 2004, the programme has supported over 50 dialogue projects which have used a variety of methods, often in combination with other forms of engagement. The Sciencewise site describes how deliberative dialogues can be combined with other qualitative and quantitative tools to allow for data from a wider sample of the public in combination with in-depth engagement. Sciencewise has developed a Public Views Toolkit to provide support in understanding tools and techniques used in dialogue projects. Methods covered by the toolkit are listed below:
- Citizens’ jury
- Citizens’ panel
- Consensus conference
- Deliberative dialogue
- Deliberative video conference
- Focus group
- Open public workshop
- Opinion poll
- Public attitudes literature review
- Social media engagement
- Social media monitoring
What Went On: Process, Interaction, and Participation
Sciencewise co-funds and supports a wide range of public dialogue projects to support policy making in issues involving science and technology. Dialogue projects are listed below
- Future strategy of the Babraham Institute
- Bioenergy Distributed Dialogue
- Public Perception of Industrial Biotechnology
- Forensic Use of DNA Citizens Enquiry
- Synthetic Biology
Data Management and Use
Energy and Climate Change
- Big Energy Shift
- Citizens Advisory Forum for Living with Environmental Change (LWEC)
- Energy 2050 Pathways: a public dialogue
- Low Carbon Communities Challenge
- Managing Radioactive Waste Safely (MRWS) Siting process
- New nuclear power stations – reviewing how to engage with members of the public in reactor design assessments (known as the Generic Design Assessment or GDA)
- Planet under Pressure Conference – Youth Voice
- Shale gas and oil developments
- Trajectories for carbon emission reductions
- Citizen Dialogue on Bovine TB
- Cambrian Mountains Natural Wealth - Landscape and Ecosystems Futures and Perceptions across a transitional landscape in the Cambrian Mountains
- Nature Improvement Areas
- Public dialogue for the UK National Ecosystem Assessment
- Public engagement on landscape & ecosystem futures in England, Scotland and Wales
- East of England
- Evaluation and learning
- Significant Water Management Issues: Engaging the public on the big issues affecting the water environment
- Water Quality and Sustainability
- UK food system challenges and the role of innovative production technologies and other approaches in meeting these
Governing Science and Technology
- Animals Containing Human Material
- Genomic Medicine
- HRA health research policy public dialogue
- HRA Patient and Public Views
- Hybrids and Chimeras
- Mitochondria Replacement
- Openness in Animal Research Dialogue
- Stem Cell Dialogue
- Developing Stratified Medicine
Public Engagement and Practice
- The Science Communication Working Lunches
- Science, Policy-making and Public Dialogue: New and emerging issues in the UK
Regulation and Governance
- Longitude 2014
- Rothamsted Research
- Science, Trust and Public Engagement – exploring future pathways to good governance
- Science, Trust and Public Engagement
- Genomics, Genetics and redesign of the Human Genetics Commission
- Open Data and Climate Science transparency
- Review of Research Councils UK Public Dialogues
Risk, Resilience and Adaptation
Influence, Outcomes, and Effects
Sciencewise evaluates all its activities to identify impacts, share good practice and demonstrate the value of public dialogue. The evaluation reports of individual public dialogue projects are all published, and there have been regular evaluations of the Sciencewise programme overall. Sciencewise shares its experiences with dialogues and has also had wider impacts.
Analysis and Lessons Learned
During 2013, it was agreed that it would be appropriate for a full independent evaluation to be undertaken of the Sciencewise programme 2012 - 2015. The aim of this evaluation was to examine the programme's activities, achievements and impacts, and to draw out lessons and opportunities for the future. Risk and Policy Analysts (RPA) were commissioned, through competitive tender, to undertake the evaluation and their final report was published in March 2015.
The first evaluation of the Sciencewise programme as a whole (projects and programme activities) was undertaken during 2009 - 2010, primarily to review the activities of the programme from 2008 to 2010. However, as this was the first major review of the programme, it also covered the history and early activities of Sciencewise from its original launch in 2004, particularly in relation to the public dialogue projects funded by Sciencewise from the beginning. This report was published in May 2011.
A second programme evaluation was undertaken during 2011 - 2012, focused largely on the impacts and lessons from the projects completed since the previous evaluation report. That report was published in March 2013, together with a separate annex analysing the longer term impacts of the projects that had been identified during the course of this evaluation research.
A third internal programme evaluation was completed during 2013 - 2014. The report covers the impacts and lessons from projects completed since the previous evaluation report, and a summary of wider programme activities
Official Website: https://sciencewise.org.uk/
Methods and Tools
- Evaluation of the Sciencewise Programme (link)
- Theory of Change (link)
- Programme Evaluation report May 2011 (link)
- Programme Evaluation Report March 2013 (link)
- Programe Evaluation Report 2013/2014 (link)