In recent years, there has been increased interest in involving the public in decision making about science and technology policy, such as on issues concerning the management of environmental and health risks. Involvement may be achieved in different ways: at the lowest level, the public may be targeted with enhanced information (e.g., about risks). At higher levels, public views may be actively solicited through such mechanisms as consultation exercises, focus groups, and questionnaires.
Denna text fokuserar på (Rowe & Frewer 2000; 2005) tankar kring "public engagement" (som är ett bredare begrepp än "public participation"):
Enligt citatet ovan kan allmänheten engageras på en låg nivå genom “enhanced information (vilket enligt Rowe & Frewer (2000; 2005) kan kallas “public communication”). På en “högre nivå” kan allmänheten “be actively solicited through such mechanisms as consultation exercises…” (något som Rove & Frewer benämner “public consultation”). Rove & Frewer (2000, s 4) beskriver vidare att allmänheten kan involveras på ”stil higer level” genom metoder som ”consultation exercises, focus groups, and questionnaires”. De olika metoderna för allmänhetens medverkan (”public participation”) sträcker sig med andra ord enligt Rowe & Frewer från enbart kommunikation från verksamhetsutövare till allmänhet, via ”enkla” undersökningar, till ”complex deliberative”-anslag:
These range from simple surveys to complex deliberative approaches involving members of the public taking part in groups or conferences, which attempt to structure the debate and provide balanced information on the issue (e.g., citizens’ juries).
(Rove & Frewer 2000) listar åtta olika sätt (här anges företrädelsevis de engelska orden efter bra svenska översättningar fattas): “public participation” kan ske på: folkomröstning, ”public hearings”, “public opinion survey”, “negotiated role making”, “consensus conference”, “citizens jury/panel”, “citizen adivsory committee” och ”focus group”. Rove & Frewer (2000) utvärderar dem utifrån fem “acceptance” kriterier (bl a: “representativeness of participations”, “early involvement?”, “influence on final policy” och tranparens) och fem process kriterier (bl a: ”task definition”, “structured decision making” och ”cost-effectiveness”). Visa metoder klarar sig bra rörande “acceptance” men inte rörande “process” kriterierna:
Referenda, public opinion surveys, and focus groups do reasonably well on acceptance criteria but not on process criteria. From this, we suggest that although these methods might gain a fair amount of credibility with the public, the quality of the decisions that arise from their implementation may not be high—and this would clearly be of concern to a sponsor.
The public hearing, however—which is perhaps the most widespread method for engaging the public—scores relatively low on both acceptance and process criteria. In the past, public hearings have been perceived as being quick, cheap, and simply administered means of satisfying any legal requirement for public participation and seen as giving the appearance of community involvement. Their disadvantages, however, seem numerous. For example, they are commonly held during weekday working hours in locations that are “formidable” to the public (e.g., government buildings), which may disadvantage low-income and minority citizens and have a negative impact on the representativeness of those attending. Communication at hearings is primarily one-way—consisting of presentations and testimony—involving little debate with the various stakeholders (scoring low on the influence criterion). Indeed, public hearings often seem designed to contain and control participation by allowing only limited choices on narrow, short-term questions at a late stage of the policy process, and so they also score low on the early involvement criterion. It has been suggested that their main aim is often to co-opt public support and to change decisions rather than to seek informed consent and expand democratic choice.
(Rove & Frewer 2000, s 18)
(Rove & Frewer 2000, s 18)
Rove & Frewer (2000, s 24) diskuterar hur beslut formas, och att gruppbeteende och gruppsykologi också måste förklaras och beaktas för att förstå problematiken för att arbeta med olika metoder för allmänhetens deltagande i planeringen av framtidens samhälle:
Providing support for both decision making and group behaviour is an important component of a wider concern for creating an appropriate environment (with all appropriate resources) to enable lay members of the public to contribute effectively to complex and important policy issues. Naturally, the more complex the intervention is, the more expensive it is likely to be for a sponsor. However, the potential damage that might be caused to public trust—and, indeed, to public health and welfare from a poorly made decision— must also be considered by the sponsor.
From our analysis, it is difficult at this juncture to categorically declare that any one method is the best. Indeed, Smith, Nell, and Prystupa (1997) conclude—and in this we agree—that the most appropriate techniques for public participation are likely to be hybrids of more traditional methods. Similarly, Fiorino (1990) suggests that a potentially effective approach to participation may be to complement one mechanism with another—such as using a survey to clarify the bases of disagreement on issues prior to a series of public hearings or using a series of citizens’ panels to add balance and depth to what policy makers might learn in open hearings.