Until the spring of 2012, many of the members of the network Expert and Citizen Assessment of Science and Technology (ECAST) had been (for the most part) merely talking about how to make a decentralized model for participatory Technology Assessment possible. It was that spring that we learned that the Danish Board of Technology would again be hosting a World Wide Views global deliberation to provide citizen input into the United Nations Cop11, Convention on Biological Diversity. By the fall, ECAST had managed to organize four sites in the United States to hold this one day meeting, recruiting 100 participants at each site.
There is now a new book out chronicling the experiences of site hosts and researchers who were involved in the event. Governing Biodiversity Through Democratic Deliberation focuses on the intersection of global biodiversity policy and the promise of deliberative democracy.
I and the Director of the Forums program at the Museum of Science Boston, David Sittenfeld, have a chapter in this one entitled “Amplifying deliberative results to access policy networks: the role of informal science education institutions.” In it we argue that deliberative mechanisms like WWViews on Biodiversity involve only a small number of citizens in questions about the global issues that these initiatives address. In response to these concerns and recognizing that even successful dissemination such as the experience at COP 11 is narrowly focused, additional efforts to ‘amplify’ wider consideration of the WWViews themes and the results of the formal dialog events cast a wider net to involve diverse networks, stakeholders and citizens. ‘Amplification’ encompasses efforts to communicate the results of the WWViews citizen deliberation to decision makers and to engage a broader public in activities that expand popular understanding and debate about biodiversity governance.
We derive a notion of how to identify important variables that help or hinder amplification from parallel definitions of contextually situated science and social values. We use a recent policy assessment of the efficacy of climate data in decision making that offers a definition of ‘usable science’ (Pielke, Jr. et al, 2010) as data that can be taken advantage of by decision makers because it is well situated in an institutional context. We posit that social values must also be rendered ‘usable’ in similar ways (Worthington et al, 2012: 49). We pair this concept of contextually situated scientific knowledge and social values with the theory of deliberative systems (Dryzek, 2009) as the framework for our analysis of the Informal Science Education Insitutions’ (ISEs) role in the WWViews event. This systemic view is built upon a theoretical synthesis of the concepts of ‘amplification’ through the dialog event and companion activities as a function ‘civic capacity building.’
Dryzek, J.S. (2009) ‘Democratization as Deliberative Capacity Building’, Comparative Political Studies, vol. 42, no. 11, pp. 1379–1402.
Pielke, Jr., R., Sarewitz, D. and Dilling, L. (2010) ‘Usable Science: A Handbook for Science Policy Decision Makers’ at http://cstpr.colorado.edu/sparc/outreach/sparc_handbook/brochure.pdf.
Worthington, R., Cavalier, D., Farooque, M., Gano, G., Geddes, H., Sander, S., Sittenfeld, D. and Tomblin, D. (2012) ‘Technology assessment and public participation: From TA to pTA’, Expert and Citizen Assessment of Science and Technology (ECAST) report at http://ecastnetwork.files.wordpress.com/2013/01/ecast-report-ta-to-pta-rev1.pdf.