The Science and Society Forum

aimed to promote informed debate, based on research and analysis, amongst all those with an interest in UK science and technology in its social and economic context, and to contribute thereby to evidence-based management and policy.

Summary of Forum Aims and Outputs

  1. Forum origins
  2. Forum USP
  3. Forum themes
  4. Forum products
  5. Forum governance and Forum staff, their credentials and related work
  6. Forum budget
  7. Forum outputs, resources and users
    1. Forum briefings
    2. Stakeholder workshops
    3. Public Engagement Lab
    4. Synthesis reports

1. Forum origins

New Opportunities Programme on PUS (ESRC,1998-2000: Alan Irwin and Peter Healey). Four products:

  • Science in Society (SiS) research programme for ESRC (Steve Rayner)
  • Input into UK policy, including a contribution to the Jenkin Report
  • 8 country European network on Science, Technology and Governance in Europe (STAGE), funded under FP5 (2001-2004)
  • this Forum proposal, originally proposed to the ESRC in January 2000 as part of SiS

2. Forum USP

Starting points:

  • Science based innovation can only succeed with informed public consent;
  • New technologies will throw up a changing agenda of issues;
  • Stakeholders need to base their actions on research, analysis and evaluation;
  • Natural and social scientists need to work together in producing this

The Forum will plug a gap in UK provision. It will:

  • synthesise research/policy/practice/evaluation on S & S issues in the UK and its major competitors, thereby increasing awareness of the drivers of innovation and change;
  • provide a space for evidence-based learning;

Through this the Forum will assist Government, Parliament and a range of other stakeholders to:

  • assess and evaluate approaches and experience;
  • discuss the scope for common ground;
  • set out options for S&T; policy, management, and evaluation

Because the ultimate focus of much debate is Parliament, we wish to give particular attention to Parliamentary audiences. We are organising all our events near to Parliament at times when Parliamentarians can attend.

3. Forum themes

The Forum will initially focus on the evidence on:

Science and innovation: issues surrounding the universities 'third mission' in commercialising their own science and supporting innovation and development

Science and governance: exploring new developments in S&T; governance, including the use of science in decision-taking, or managing and communicating risk and opportunity

Science and education: curricular issues reflecting the social and economic context of science, including the new citizenship component; Scientists’ Understanding of the Public and developing needs for training of young scientists in science communication; the role of science centres and the media in reflecting and influencing public knowledge and attitudes

Science and public engagement: developing a methodology for designing public engagement and assessing its impacts, learning to relate context <-> issue <-> method <-> outcomes

4. Forum products

Forum Briefings - the information base: up to 30 a year, on the web, to benefit a range of stakeholders;

Stakeholder Workshops - up to 9 a year: opportunity to follow up selected issues in the light of the evidence, to more clearly articulate the issues/explore the ground for consensus;

Public Engagement Lab - presentation and testing of new methods, review of engagement processes, cumulative learning through development of an evaluative framework. The Forumbortunity and need.

Synthesis Reports - wider and deeper views of an issue, highlighting policy choices and the factors bearing on them. Possibly two or three a year. Disseminated in collaboration with POST.

5. Forum governance and Forum staff, their credentials and related work

Three directors: Peter Healey (executive - 60%), Alan Irwin and Gail Cardew (non-executive).
Board of Management comprising directors, plus Ri as hosts and major stakeholders.
Independent Advisory Committee.

Through SPSG PH was responsible for 8 science policy programmes, including the first work on PUS post the Bodmer Report. An independent evaluation in 2001by Dr Neville Reeve, Evidence Ltd, commented '[early on] the SPSG took a high profile role in acting as a catalyst for many areas of science policy research and provided key support in the research which underpinned the 1993 Science White Paper [Realising our Potential]' AI has researched, published and advised widely on science & citizenship issues.

PH also runs the 8 country STAGE (European Commission FP5) for which AI is chief UK researcher, and has proposals in for ISSC (knowledge society indicators project - with Harry Rothman, Nottingham Business School - for ESRC) and Globalisation and New Challenges to the Governance of Knowledge Based Societies (issues of social and economic equity and S&T; in developed/developing countries - with Susan Cozzens, Georgia Tech and colleagues from China, India, South Africa and the Caribbean).
STAGE has entered an expression of interest in work on science and governance under FP6. Our ideal candidate for the research post would be Dr Ana Padilla (natural scientist, ex research assistant to Dr Ian Gibson, MP; excellent working relations with POST).

6. Forum budget

In the order of £100k per annum for the full range of activities set out here.

7. Forum Outputs, Resources and Users

Forum Output Objective
  • issues
  • (research) objectives
  • methods
  • personnel
  • findings
  • implications for policy and practice

delivered on Forum website, with interactive facilities

  • to enable reader to request further information or
  • set up a profile for automated mailing of briefings
  • act as an information base for the selection of activity under outputs 2 & 3

Structured as linked documents, indexed for searching, offering three levels of information:

To provide systematic awareness of

  1. New research projects/new policy initiatives/ evaluations
  2. New findings
within Forum remit and current priorities
Resources Employed Users and Beneficiaries

Researcher (40% time) managing networks of information established by Forum Director (10% time) covering EU activity with more occasional material from the US, Asia-Pacific, Australasia and Latin America, to produce briefings.

In addition 60% of Forum web resources are expected to be used on this task

Funded by core funding programme; development of international comparisons to be funded by proposal under FP6 (European Commission)

  • All those in UK industry, government, academia and NGOs who need an efficient method to keep abreast of science and society developments

  • Researchers and analysts who want to try to situate UK experience and policy in a wider context

Forum Output Objective
  • Selected issues within priority themes or which Forum participants have requested

  • More occasional ad-hoc meetings on current issues or which take advantage of visitors to the UK

  • An experimental and evaluative approach to workshop processes which can help to articulate key issues dividing stakeholders or on which consensus might be built

  • Format usually 2 hours at lunchtime, but half-day and one day workshops also as required

  • Web report at three levels:
    • Report/presentation
    • Discussants’ reflection
    • Review of process
Expected volume of activity: six shorter workshops and three longer each year

To provide systematic awareness of

  • An opportunity to follow up key issues in UK policy and practice prompted by current developments or analysis and research emerging from the Forum Briefings

  • A clearer articulation of the issues involved

  • An exploration of the scope for consensus
Resources Employed Users and Beneficiaries

Researcher (20% time)

Forum Director (20% time)

Funded by core funding programme

  • Those policymakers and practitioners in S&T; needing to engage with issues at greater depth and willing to look critically at the opportunities and constraints of their own position relative to others

  • Those researchers and analysts wishing to understand the development and implementation of public policy in conditions of conflict, ignorance and uncertainty

Forum Output Objective
  • presentation and testing of new methods

  • research into, and reviews of, engagement processes, carried out by a range of institutions, in both science and technology but other policy domains where experiments and evaluation offer lessons

  • cumulative learning through relating individual exercises to an evaluative framework which will link context, objectives, process and outcomes, gaining

  • frequency of events driven by opportunity and need, but of the order of 5-6 a year

The Forum's research arm.

To provide:

  • An introduction to, and comparative testing of, new techniques of public engagement and deliberative democracy

  • an opportunity for exchange of experience and mutual learning on the practice and outcomes of public engagement for a range of settings and purposes

  • progress towards frameworks commanding wide assent that can be used in evaluation and benchmarking of UK activity

Resources Employed Users and Beneficiaries

Researcher (20% time)

Forum Director (10% time)

Will work very closely with InterAct, the New Economics Foundation, and others in the forefront of experimentation in public engagement/extending democracy, and try to broaden its range by importing experimental techniques from the social sciences such as agent-based models and simulation.

Will develop a joint proposal with colleagues in the United States to develop comparative research and assessment with Europe, funded under the ESRC Science in Society Programme or FP6. We are looking at the possibilities of extending this to Japan.

  • All who can benefit from experimentation and evaluation of methods of public engagement, in any policy context

  • Evaluators wishing to develop or test their methodology

  • Researchers interested in the relationship between the framing of issues, presentation of evidence, articulation of discourse, and stakeholder attitudes and behaviour

Forum Output Objective
  • Synthesis reports would be a prime means for the Forum to take a wider view of an issue, and its own work, and highlight policy and management choices and the factors bearing on them

  • Our aim would be to produce two or three reports a year, often as the development of an issue pursued through a stakeholder workshops or in the public engagement lab

To put out in written form:

  • Reviews of research or practice deriving from decisions to follow up Forum Briefings in more detail by, for example, launching a small internationally comparative review of how the issue is impacting policy or regulation in a range of countries;

  • Articulation of issues as an input to or output from stakeholder workshops;

  • Resource handbooks, offering advice as to what procedure to pursue in what circumstances and with what range of expected results

  • Policy advice, as to the consensual way forward advocated, or the issues that divide stakeholders

Resources Employed Users and Beneficiaries

Researcher (20% time)

Forum Director (10% time)

Because synthesis reports would be a vehicle for translating the Forum's work into a policy context they would be produced cooperatively with the Parliamentary Office of Science and Technology, POST

We will explore the ground under FP6 for collaboration which will yield wider syntheses and for European summer schools to distil lessons for policy and practice

  • Policymakers and practitioners in Parliament, Government, Industry, Academia and NGOs

  • Public policy analysts