Spurred on by high profile controversies over BSE, GM crops and now nanotechnology, scientists have gradually started to involve the public in their work. They looked first to education as the answer, then to processes of dialogue and participation. But these efforts have not yet proved sufficient.
In See-through Science, James Wilsdon and Rebecca Willis argue that we are on the cusp of a new phase in debates over science and society. Public engagement is about to move upstream.
Scientists need to find ways of listening to and valuing more diverse forms of public knowledge and social intelligence. Only by opening up innovation processes at an early stage can we ensure that science contributes to the common good.
Debates about risk are important. But the public also want answers to the more fundamental questions at stake in any new technology: Who owns it? Who benefits from it? To what purposes will it be directed?
The pamphlet offers practical guidance for scientists, policymakers, research councils businesses and NGOs – anyone who is trying to make engagement work.
It is an argument with profound implications for the future of science. Can upstream engagement reshape not only the way that scientists relate to the public, but also the very foundations on which the scientific enterprise rests?
ChangeThis also repackaged and republished See-through Science in the US. Download the pdf.
On March 1, 2005, The Centre held a See-through Science launch event in Brussels. Participants Robert Madelin, Director General of the European Commission, and Ragnar Lofsted, of the Kings College Centre for Risk Assessment, prepared responses that informed a lively discussion. See-through Science was generally well received by other attendees who represented DG Trade, DG Research, and various corporations and NGOs.
On February 25, 2005, Dave Rejeski organized a lunch event at the Woodrow Wilson Center in Washington DC, where he heads up the Foresight and Governance Project. Over 30 US policy makers including Dr. Mihail Roco of the National Science Foundation (NSF) and Clayton Teague of the National Nanotechnology Coordination Office (NNCO) joined the discussion. The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) expressed interest in how public engagement would relate to questions of risk or regulatory reform.