Data

General Issues
Science & Technology
Specific Topics
Biomedical Research & Development
Location
Belgique
Scope of Influence
Multinational
Start Date
End Date
Time Limited or Repeated?
A single, defined period of time
Purpose/Goal
Make, influence, or challenge decisions of government and public bodies
Approach
Consultation
Spectrum of Public Participation
Consult
Total Number of Participants
28
Open to All or Limited to Some?
Limited to Only Some Groups or Individuals
Recruitment Method for Limited Subset of Population
Stratified Random Sample
General Types of Methods
Deliberative and dialogic process
Legality
Yes
Facilitators
Yes
Face-to-Face, Online, or Both
Face-to-Face
Types of Interaction Among Participants
Discussion, Dialogue, or Deliberation
Ask & Answer Questions
Information & Learning Resources
Expert Presentations
Type of Organizer/Manager
Non-Governmental Organization
International Organization
Type of Funder
International Organization

CASE

Meeting of Minds: A European Citizens’ Deliberation on Brain Science

September 27, 2022 Joyce Chen
July 25, 2022 Paul Emiljanowicz
July 4, 2022 Joyce Chen
July 3, 2022 Joyce Chen
May 21, 2022 jennahong
February 14, 2021 Jaskiran Gakhal, Participedia Team
February 10, 2021 Antonin Lacelle-Webster
February 3, 2021 Antonin Lacelle-Webster
January 29, 2021 Antonin Lacelle-Webster
General Issues
Science & Technology
Specific Topics
Biomedical Research & Development
Location
Belgique
Scope of Influence
Multinational
Start Date
End Date
Time Limited or Repeated?
A single, defined period of time
Purpose/Goal
Make, influence, or challenge decisions of government and public bodies
Approach
Consultation
Spectrum of Public Participation
Consult
Total Number of Participants
28
Open to All or Limited to Some?
Limited to Only Some Groups or Individuals
Recruitment Method for Limited Subset of Population
Stratified Random Sample
General Types of Methods
Deliberative and dialogic process
Legality
Yes
Facilitators
Yes
Face-to-Face, Online, or Both
Face-to-Face
Types of Interaction Among Participants
Discussion, Dialogue, or Deliberation
Ask & Answer Questions
Information & Learning Resources
Expert Presentations
Type of Organizer/Manager
Non-Governmental Organization
International Organization
Type of Funder
International Organization

Meeting of Minds was a citizens’ deliberation created to develop recommendations regarding brain science policy for the European Parliament. Taking place from 2005 to 2006, the deliberation included 126 citizens from nine European countries. [1]

Problems and Purpose

This citizens’ deliberation was created to amplify citizens’ voices when shaping the European Parliament’s approach to brain science. Developments in brain science have the potential to improve people’s mental capacities and redefine what it means to be human. Given these complex and life-altering implications, many institutions felt the need to include citizens’ perspectives on the ethical and socio-political aspects of what constitutes an improvement of the human brain. From there, a partner consortium of technology assessment bodies, science museums, academic institutions, and public foundations from Belgium, Denmark, France, Germany, Greece, Hungary, Italy, the Netherlands, and the UK launched the Meeting of Minds. [2]


Background History and Context

Meeting of Minds took place as part of a greater push to increase public involvement, not only in brain science, but in climate change, nanotechnology, and other fields of science and technology policy more generally. In Europe, the concept of Participatory Technology Assessment (PTA) and the simultaneous integration of public input into scientific assessments had been growing over the years. Previous instances of PTA similar to the Meeting of Minds include the Citizens Participation in Science and Technology (CIPAST) project. Furthermore, there had been significant amounts of research on how PTAs should be structured and when they are appropriate. For example, in 1998-2000, there was an analysis of the public debates on urban transport, genetically modified organisms in food and agriculture, and genetic testing in six European countries. This Assessing Public Debate and Participation in Technology Assessment in Europe (ADAPTA) project focussed on identifying the conditions under which specific forms of PTA occur, their impacts, and innovations that foster public debate. [3]


Organizing, Supporting, and Funding Entities

Meeting of Minds was organized by the King Baudouin Foundation in collaboration with the University of Westminster, the Flemish Institute for Science and Technology Assessment, the Danish Board of Technology, the Cité des Sciences et de l’Industrie, the Stiftung Deutsches Hygiene-Museum, the Fondazione IDIS Città della Scienza, the Rathenau Institute, the Science Museum, the University of Debrecen, the Eugenides Foundation, the University of Liège, and SPIRAL. [4]

As the initiator of the project, KBF performed the majority of the organizing and coordination activities. This aligned with its stance as an explicit European actor separate from any national orientation with the goal of promoting participatory governance. [5]

The initiative was supported and funded by the European Commission under the 6th Framework Programme for Research and Technological Development in the European Union. The EU contributed €800,000 to the overall budget, which was €1,360,352. [6]


Participant Recruitment and Selection

The experts

Before the citizens’ deliberation began, the organizers hosted a workshop of experts to prepare the foundational materials that would serve as a basis for the citizens’ discussions. The experts were largely neuroscience researchers, neglecting the contributions that philosophy, ethics, technology assessment, and policy-making experts could have made. Additionally, due to the gender imbalance within the field of neuroscience, the experts were largely male. [7]


The citizens

The citizens panels consisted of 126 people, 14 from each of the nine countries represented. The 14 lay-persons were randomly selected, controlling for diversity regarding age, gender, and education. The organizers made efforts to represent a broad range of individual life experiences, opinions, and social backgrounds. Many citizens reported being motivated to participate because of personal experiences with the subject, such as having family members suffering from brain diseases. [8]


Methods and Tools Used

Citizens’ deliberation

A citizens’ deliberation is a method in which citizens gather to discuss a specific issue with the aim of reaching consensus or broad agreement regarding potential solutions. Meeting of Minds used a combination of national and transnational deliberations (Citizens’ Conventions), using the latter to develop a common European agenda of important subjects (Themes) for the national meetings. By starting at the transnational level, the organizers were able to foster a sense of cooperative European discourse instead of a debate between different European nations. [9]


Tools

  • Voting: Recommendations at the transnational level needed to achieve a two-thirds majority in order to pass. This had the benefit of encouraging broad consensus, but some participants expressed frustration that recommendations that did not meet the threshold were rejected without further discussion, impeding the possibility of developing more specific recommendations. [10]
  • Keypad voting: The First Citizens’ Convention used keypad voting, which had the benefits of efficiency and anonymity. The results could be quickly collected and presented for everyone to see it, as well as presented in relation with other data. The drawback is that it required technical preparation and clear instructions for the participants to use. Additionally, organizers could not monitor whether participants were using the keypad properly without compromising the vote’s anonymity. [11]
  • Hand signal voting: The Second Citizens’ Convention used hand signal voting, which had the benefit of citizens being able to immediately know how many people were voting with or against them. The drawback of this is a lack of anonymity, so people may have felt pressured to vote with the majority. [12]
  • Resources: Citizens were given access to informational materials to provide them a solid basis from which to begin their discussions and develop their perspectives. Resource persons were also available to supplement them with additional materials for unanswered questions. Some degree of informational guidance is necessary for a citizens’ deliberation, particularly on such complex topics as brain science, but it should be noted that resource persons can have too much sway in the discussion. [13]
  • Translation: Given the multilingual nature of transnational conventions, interpreters were an essential part of aiding discussions and recording their results. [14]
  • Carousels: At the Second Citizens’ Convention, the participants were split up into three Carousels; each Carousel elaborated on two Themes in detail. Unfortunately, this meant that not everyone could discuss each Theme, but was a logistical necessity as there was insufficient time for everyone to discuss every Theme. Within each Carousel, participants were seated at monolingual tables. This had the benefit of reducing the time and financial cost of translation, but compromised the diversity of perspectives expressed on a micro-level. [15]


What Went On: Process, Interaction, and Participation

The first phase was the preparation of foundational materials for the citizens to use as the basis of their discussion. A panel of brain science experts attended a workshop and produced a book, “Connecting Brains and Society. The Present and Future of Brain Science: What is possible, what is desirable?”, as well as a short brochure giving a high-level of brain science and its key issues. [16]


The following phases were: [17]

  1. First Citizens’ Convention (June 2005) - transnational
  2. Stakeholder Workshop (June 2005) - national
  3. Second Citizens’ Convention (January 2006) - transnational
  4. Policy Advice Workshop, EuroScience Open Forum (July 2006) - national
  5. Stakeholder Workshop (September 2006) - national


First Citizens’ Convention

This was modeled after the 21st Century Town Meeting designed by AmericaSpeaks. The goal was to set the major topic agenda within a larger policy framework, and then prioritize the Themes to serve as the basis for the Stakeholder Workshop. Themes were selected through a broad base of consensus over the course of multiple reflection periods in the plenary sessions, open spaces where citizens could explore and adjust the scope of Themes. [18]

Participants used the information brochure produced by the expert panel as an introduction to the subject, and they reported that it was a very useful reference. There were no additional resource persons in attendance, which limited participants’ access to information but also enabled them to exercise greater autonomy when developing their first impressions and their own perspectives. A “Theme Team” summarized the discussion results as they occurred. This team was visible to participants and served a symbolic function in the dialogue, reassuring participants that their contributions were being noted. [19]

In terms of inclusivity, at the beginning, men tended to take more initiative in the conversations, but over time, men and women contributed equal amounts and there was an equal number of men and women reporting as representatives from the various subgroups. With regards to language inclusivity, interpreters attended the discussion rounds during the table sessions to facilitate conversation. The fact that the interpreters were there, translating as they went, was vital, as it allowed them to observe the citizens’ reactions and gestures. [20]

One issue during this convention was that the facilitators had not been deeply involved in the preparation. They joined the process right before the convention began and did not feel sufficiently prepared, creating an additional time and stress burden for them. [21]


Stakeholder Workshop

This was the first of the national assessment meetings, modeled after the Participatory Consensus Conference developed by the Danish Board of Technology. The goal of this workshop was to assess the Themes decided on during the First Convention on a national level. The results were summarized in a National Synthesis Report, which was used to facilitate the Second Convention. At this time, citizens could further reflect upon the Themes and request further information from the national resource persons. [22]


Second Citizens’ Convention

This convention used a Carousel Design. The citizens were divided into three groups, or Carousels, and each Carousel elaborated on two Themes in detail with the aim of producing recommendations that would be approved by the whole citizens panel. [23]

There were several issues with the Second Convention that lowered the quality of discourse. The meetings were extremely long and dense, which exhausted the participants, reducing their engagement over time, and made the schedule inflexible, reducing the opportunities to explore alternative perspectives. The convention was also highly proceduralized. Citizens reported feeling overwhelmed by the mass of material and discussion points, as well as the rules and definitions they had to abide by. Specifically, many participants were frustrated by the voting rules. Recommendations needed a two-thirds majority in order to pass, and recommendations that failed were rejected without further discussion even if citizens wanted to continue exploring them. The issues with procedural complexity were exacerbated by a perceived lack of transparency. Participants sometimes did not understand their specific task or lacked a clear overview on the most important design features or rules. [24]

Moreover, there were problems with the visualization and communication of the discussion results. Unlike in the First Convention, the summarizing team was not visible to the citizens, so participants had to simply trust that what was being written was an accurate reflection of the discussion content. Multiple factors meant that participants did not feel this was the case. Firstly, the enormous mass of material covered meant that both citizens and facilitators struggled to keep track of all the discussion outputs. Secondly, a lack of procedural transparency meant that citizens did not realize that what was being displayed on presentation slides were merely shortened versions of the outputs, leading them to believe content had been ignored. Thirdly, content summaries were communicated back to the participants in a confusing or ambiguous manner. Sometimes, citizens did not recognize their own statements as they had been rephrased or poorly interpreted. Lastly, interpretation was difficult. Not only was there a large amount of content to translate in very little time, which sometimes led to incorrect translations, but the fact that interpreters worked separately from the discussion rounds meant that they could not pick up on citizens’ reactions and gestures. In cases of ambiguity, interpreters were able to insert their own comments. Poor language interpretation not only contributed to a feeling of misrepresentation, but also disadvantaged non English-speaking citizens. They were disadvantaged in the process because they were not able to read the slides documenting the results of the current dialogue. [24]

Like with the First Convention, men took more initiative in the conversations at the beginning, but this discrepancy vanished over time. Unlike the First Convention, resource persons were present throughout. This was helpful, as they were able to answer questions as they came up and enrich the discussion with concrete background information. [25]


Influence, Outcomes, and Effects

The citizens presented their final policy recommendations to the European Parliament. Some journalists were in attendance, though not many, and interaction between the citizens and policymakers was limited. Despite this, there was considerable media coverage, with approximately ten articles published about it from January to May 2006. The KBF and its partners intensively communicated the results and their experience of organizing a citizens’ deliberation, such as in a seminar at the EuroScience Open Forum Conference in Munich. [26]


Analysis and Lessons Learned

Overall, Meeting of Minds was a fairly successful initiative. It combined transnational and national dialogues and demonstrated positive interaction between the scientific community and the public in a way that is complementary but still driven by the public. Participants voiced satisfaction with the deliberation in surveys and on the Internet, and they also praised the organizers’ logistical management. [27]


The key issues and learning points are:

  1. Importance of flexibility regarding time constraints. Long working days are physically and mentally exhausting for participants and reduce participants’ ability to adapt the conversation as need be. [28]
  2. Importance of transparency to participants. All rules and definitions should be clearly communicated to participants, and it should be clear which ones are of greater importance than others. This allows participants to orient themselves comfortably throughout the process and exercise greater agency. [29]
  3. Importance of avoiding over-proceduralization. Over-proceduralization again imposes limits on the scope of discussion and can make it harder for participants to grasp what is happening, which can foster a sense of disillusionment and lower engagement. [30]
  4. Importance of an in-person dialogue. Although an online discussion would be far less expensive and easier to organize, face-to-face interactions are critical for direct communication among participants and the creation of a sense of European identity. A potential balance between logistical ease and quality of discourse would be to combine Internet deliberations with shorter in-person meetings. [31]


See Also

References

[1] Community Research and Development Information Service. “Meeting of Minds. European Citizens’ Deliberation on Brain Science.” Community Research and Development Information Service. https://cordis.europa.eu/project/id/13649

[2] Community Research and Development Information Service. “Meeting of Minds. European Citizens’ Deliberation on Brain Science.” Community Research and Development Information Service. https://cordis.europa.eu/project/id/13649

[3] Rüdiger Goldschmidt and Ortwin Renn. “Meeting of Minds – European Citizens’ Deliberation on Brain Sciences. Final Report of the External Evaluation.” The University of Stuttgart.

[4] Rüdiger Goldschmidt and Ortwin Renn. “Meeting of Minds – European Citizens’ Deliberation on Brain Sciences. Final Report of the External Evaluation.” The University of Stuttgart.

[5] Rüdiger Goldschmidt and Ortwin Renn. “Meeting of Minds – European Citizens’ Deliberation on Brain Sciences. Final Report of the External Evaluation.” The University of Stuttgart.

[6] Community Research and Development Information Service. “Meeting of Minds. European Citizens’ Deliberation on Brain Science.” Community Research and Development Information Service. https://cordis.europa.eu/project/id/13649

[7] Rüdiger Goldschmidt and Ortwin Renn. “Meeting of Minds – European Citizens’ Deliberation on Brain Sciences. Final Report of the External Evaluation.” The University of Stuttgart.

[8] Rüdiger Goldschmidt and Ortwin Renn. “Meeting of Minds – European Citizens’ Deliberation on Brain Sciences. Final Report of the External Evaluation.” The University of Stuttgart.

[9] Rüdiger Goldschmidt and Ortwin Renn. “Meeting of Minds – European Citizens’ Deliberation on Brain Sciences. Final Report of the External Evaluation.” The University of Stuttgart.

[10] Rüdiger Goldschmidt and Ortwin Renn. “Meeting of Minds – European Citizens’ Deliberation on Brain Sciences. Final Report of the External Evaluation.” The University of Stuttgart.

[11] Rüdiger Goldschmidt and Ortwin Renn. “Meeting of Minds – European Citizens’ Deliberation on Brain Sciences. Final Report of the External Evaluation.” The University of Stuttgart.

[12] Rüdiger Goldschmidt and Ortwin Renn. “Meeting of Minds – European Citizens’ Deliberation on Brain Sciences. Final Report of the External Evaluation.” The University of Stuttgart.

[13] Rüdiger Goldschmidt and Ortwin Renn. “Meeting of Minds – European Citizens’ Deliberation on Brain Sciences. Final Report of the External Evaluation.” The University of Stuttgart.

[14] Rüdiger Goldschmidt and Ortwin Renn. “Meeting of Minds – European Citizens’ Deliberation on Brain Sciences. Final Report of the External Evaluation.” The University of Stuttgart.

[15] Rüdiger Goldschmidt and Ortwin Renn. “Meeting of Minds – European Citizens’ Deliberation on Brain Sciences. Final Report of the External Evaluation.” The University of Stuttgart.

[16] Rüdiger Goldschmidt and Ortwin Renn. “Meeting of Minds – European Citizens’ Deliberation on Brain Sciences. Final Report of the External Evaluation.” The University of Stuttgart.

[17] Rüdiger Goldschmidt and Ortwin Renn. “Meeting of Minds – European Citizens’ Deliberation on Brain Sciences. Final Report of the External Evaluation.” The University of Stuttgart.

[18] Rüdiger Goldschmidt and Ortwin Renn. “Meeting of Minds – European Citizens’ Deliberation on Brain Sciences. Final Report of the External Evaluation.” The University of Stuttgart.

[19] Rüdiger Goldschmidt and Ortwin Renn. “Meeting of Minds – European Citizens’ Deliberation on Brain Sciences. Final Report of the External Evaluation.” The University of Stuttgart.

[20] Rüdiger Goldschmidt and Ortwin Renn. “Meeting of Minds – European Citizens’ Deliberation on Brain Sciences. Final Report of the External Evaluation.” The University of Stuttgart.

[21] Rüdiger Goldschmidt and Ortwin Renn. “Meeting of Minds – European Citizens’ Deliberation on Brain Sciences. Final Report of the External Evaluation.” The University of Stuttgart.

[22] Rüdiger Goldschmidt and Ortwin Renn. “Meeting of Minds – European Citizens’ Deliberation on Brain Sciences. Final Report of the External Evaluation.” The University of Stuttgart.

[23] Rüdiger Goldschmidt and Ortwin Renn. “Meeting of Minds – European Citizens’ Deliberation on Brain Sciences. Final Report of the External Evaluation.” The University of Stuttgart.

[24] Rüdiger Goldschmidt and Ortwin Renn. “Meeting of Minds – European Citizens’ Deliberation on Brain Sciences. Final Report of the External Evaluation.” The University of Stuttgart.

[25] Rüdiger Goldschmidt and Ortwin Renn. “Meeting of Minds – European Citizens’ Deliberation on Brain Sciences. Final Report of the External Evaluation.” The University of Stuttgart.

[26] Rüdiger Goldschmidt and Ortwin Renn. “Meeting of Minds – European Citizens’ Deliberation on Brain Sciences. Final Report of the External Evaluation.” The University of Stuttgart.

[27] Rüdiger Goldschmidt and Ortwin Renn. “Meeting of Minds – European Citizens’ Deliberation on Brain Sciences. Final Report of the External Evaluation.” The University of Stuttgart.

[28] Rüdiger Goldschmidt and Ortwin Renn. “Meeting of Minds – European Citizens’ Deliberation on Brain Sciences. Final Report of the External Evaluation.” The University of Stuttgart.

[29] Rüdiger Goldschmidt and Ortwin Renn. “Meeting of Minds – European Citizens’ Deliberation on Brain Sciences. Final Report of the External Evaluation.” The University of Stuttgart.

[30] Rüdiger Goldschmidt and Ortwin Renn. “Meeting of Minds – European Citizens’ Deliberation on Brain Sciences. Final Report of the External Evaluation.” The University of Stuttgart.

[31] Rüdiger Goldschmidt and Ortwin Renn. “Meeting of Minds – European Citizens’ Deliberation on Brain Sciences. Final Report of the External Evaluation.” The University of Stuttgart.


External Links

Notes