Forum Archives - Past meetings

26 March 2002, 12.00-14.00

Conversation Room
Royal Institution
of Great Britain (Ri)
21 Albermarle Street

Risk and Uncertainty - Emerging Themes from the PIU Study

Jeremy Hotchkiss
Performance and Innovation Unit, Cabinet Office

Risk is one of the crucial factors that Governments face in delivering services to the public. It is a broad subject, which touches upon almost every aspect of decision making.

Effective risk management can help Governments identify and tackle problems before they become crises. It can also help them to take advantage of new opportunities when they arise. It is increasingly a feature of strategic thinking, both in the private sector and within Government.

The PIU study on risk and uncertainty was announced by the Prime Minister in July 2001. The project aims to take a wide-ranging look at how good risk management practice can be embedded within the structure, processes and culture of Government. The project is due to report in early summer 2002.

This project focuses on a number of specific, but fundamental questions in connection with risk management:

  • How do we manage our business better in the face of risk and uncertainty?
  • How do we take decisions that reflect the best available information, and also reflect the wider values of society?
  • How do we build trust in our ability to manage risks?
  • How do we ensure a constructive, dialogue with the public, particularly in cases of uncertainty?
  • How do we develop a culture that encourages and embraces well-managed risk taking?
  • What principles should guide the way we manage and communicate about risks?
Slides (2.4MB) are available.

26 February 2002, 12.00

Ground floor Meeting Room
Parliamentary Building
at 7 Millbank SW1

Valuable Lessons:
Engaging with the social context of science in schools

Dr Ralph Levinson, University of London Institute of Education

An important current issue for science education is how to reconcile the teaching of the minority who will go on to scientific careers with the needs of all pupils, as future citizens and consumers, to understand the social and economic context of science. Dr Levinson reported the findings of his research on current educational practice in teaching about socio-scientific issues to the 14-19 age group in schools in England and Wales. The presentation drew also on the results of a day-conference held in December which engaged a wide range of practitioners and analysts in focusing on the priorities for policy and practice arising from the research.

(A launch of our New Science Education theme)

Briefing notes (104k) and slides (48k) from Dr Ralph Levinson are available.

29 January 2002, 12.00

Reforming the governance of human genetics:
the politics of public trust

Professor Brian Salter and Dr Mavis Jones,
Department of Public Health, University of East Anglia

This seminar was based on the work of the project "Reforming the governance of human genetics: the politics of public trust" funded under the ESRC/MRC Innovative Health Technologies Research Programme. The aim of the project was to assess the ability of the new advisory and regulatory framework for biotechnology to respond to issues of public trust in the field of human genetics.

Within this, the objectives were:

  • to analyse the main components of the European Union and United States models of governance in human genetics
  • in this context, to examine the perceptions of the governance requirements of public trust held by the regulators, consumer groups and the media in the UK
  • against this background, to analyse the politics of the new governance machinery in human genetics
  • to evaluate the ability of that governance policy to respond to issues of public trust
  • to identify ways in which the policy can be improved

The seminar presented for discussion the theoretical framework of this project, leading up to the commencement of the interview phase (to run from January to August 2002). Using issues drawn from media coverage to introduce the discussion, the speakers explored the political pressures associated with the governance of biotechnology. Among the elements of influence discussed was the structure of formal governance; the European context; the networks of industry, science, and civil society; and the role of the media.

Available from this meeting are:
Slides (180k) from Brian Salter and Mavis Jones on The Politics of Human Genetics
Slides (85k) from Afredo Aguilar, head of the Cell Factory Unit, DG Research, European Commission, on Science and Society: An Action Plan

30 November 2001, 9.30

Hinton Room
1 Birdcage Walk
London SW1H 9JJ

Science, Society and Citizenship in the 21st Century

A special one-day conference organised jointly with OPUS.

OPUS (Optimising the Public Understanding of Science) - see - is a European Commission RTD programme, funded under FP5, which examines the theory and practice of science communication across Europe and considers future policy options.

The purpose of this conference was to engage with policymakers and practitioners. Its central themes included whether 21st century science would necessitate 'reauthorising' or democratising; the role of marketisation in undermining public trust; and the lessons that might be learned from European experience.

Members of the research team from Austria, Belgium, France, Portugal, Sweden and the UK have taken part.

A number of workshop presentations are available as pdf files at:

The Conference Programme and the Official Conference Poster are available to download.

27 November 2001, 12.00

Council Room
Institution of Mechanical Engineers
1 Birdcage Walk
London SW1H 9JJ

The Ageing Brain: social, ethical and policy implications of future treatments for brain ageing

Professor Lawrence Whalley, Department of Mental Health, University of Aberdeen

Slides (80k) from Professor Lawrence Whalley are available.

16 October 2001, 12.00

The Atlee Suite
Portcullis House

Designing and Evaluating Public Engagement with S&T;

Professor Glynis Breakwell, Vice-Chancellor, University of Bath

Professor Judith Petts, School of Geography and Environmental Sciences, University of Birmingham

Discussants: Dr David Coles, OST
Dr Perry Walker, New Economics Foundation and InterAct

(A launch of our Evaluating Engagement theme)

Briefing notes (100k) from Professor Glynis Breakwell and both briefing notes (105k) and slides (45k) from Professor Judith Petts are available.

25 September 2001, 12.00

Science, Governance and the European Research Area

Alan Cross, Governance and Science Unit, Science and Society Directorate, DG Research, European Commission

Discussants: Dr Andrew Barry, Goldsmith's College, University of London, author of Political Machines
Gary Kass, Parliamentary Office of Science and Technology

(A launch of our Science and Governance theme)

Briefing (100k word .doc) ; Slides (340k powerpoint .ppt)