A new report from Beyond GM/A Bigger Conversation argues it's time to make meaningful citizen engagement part of the DNA of the regulatory process
Who gets to decide how technologies are developed and used in society – and whether they are of genuine benefit or are a response to a genuine need?
It is all too common for such decisions to be taken by an elite few – often those who are actively involved in the development of a technology or who have political, financial or ideological interests in its development.
A great deal of lip service is paid to the idea of public engagement, but citizens – the "end users" – who may take a different view or have different ideas about what is "necessary" and what constitutes a "benefit" or a "risk" are rarely given the opportunity to have any meaningful say.
Yet citizen views are integral to ensuring that technologies and science responds to the needs and wants of society at large.
Bringing them into the conversation requires a move away from the current risk and benefit assessments within a solely economic framework, towards a wider and more nuanced conversation about why a technology is wanted or needed within ethical and sustainability parameters. For this conversation to be genuinely useful to society, it must involve substantial citizen engagement – engagement designed in such a way that it steers technological and scientific development from the beginning, rather than simply coming in at the end and being "educated" about a new product.
A new review from A Bigger Conversation, "Voices From the Ground – Public Engagement in the Regulation of Agricultural Gene Editing", explores the many facets of citizen engagement in the UK and elsewhere through the lens of developments in genetic engineering.
Copious amounts of data have been published in this area showing that despite some promising initiatives, citizen engagement in the UK falls far short of its goal of genuinely informing policy. The review provides best practice case studies from other parts of the world, and recommendations for reforming science and technology governance to give citizen engagement a much more substantive role.
The new report: https://abiggerconversation.org/wp-content/uploads/2022/09/ABC_Voices-From-The-Ground_Sept-2022_Final.pdf