Public participation in Science and Technology
In the last decades, the involvement of civil society and citizens in policy deliberation and decision-making processes relating to scientific and technical issues has undergone significant and also highly heterogeneous changes in European countries. Following public controversies about energy policy issues in the 1970s and 1980s, the emergence of biotechnology and environmental protection have especially led to an increasing involvement of citizens and stakeholders in assessment and deliberation procedures, which had previously largely remained confined to experts and decision-makers. Ways of involving civil society have been very diverse, ranging from social mobilisations, the development of associations and NGOs, to the introduction of formal participatory procedures in more or less institutionalised decision-making and deliberation settings.
These developments are indicative of two major trends. First, the desire to renew and enhance the democratic dialogue and decision-making process in the European societies. Second, the need to perform a social assessment of the technological innovation processes that continuously transform our lives, involving risks and benefits.
In that context, the CIPAST project was launched in April 2005, with a three-year work programme, supported by the European Commission as a “coordinated action” of the Sixth Framework Programme. The acronym CIPAST stands for ‘Citizen Participation in Science and Technology’. This project aimed at bringing together organisations which have significant experiences in the use of participatory procedures in scientific and technological issues, and which belong to the different families of experienced actors in that field such as parliamentary offices, research institutes, academic teams, Science Shops or science museums.
Bringing the actors together, pooling their various capacities, and integrating their various contextual perspectives through a common platform, CIPAST provides the occasion to collect and disseminate useful practices and to share the experience of public participation initiatives. It also fosters the emergence of a European culture of participatory democracy in scientific and technological issues and aims to promote more societal sound innovation processes. The two main CIPAST objectives have been
- to structure an expand networks of current and potential actors in participation through the dissemination of best practices and circulation of information, and
- to foster transfer of expertise through the implementation of training sessions and the production of a “training package” based on case-studies methodology.
CIPAST IN PRACTICE now provides elementary sets for teaching and learning which are based on ‘real life case studies’ and which can be used and re-assembled by potential users (see ‘Practice’ ). The given tools are completed through information resources about designing participatory procedures (see ‘Design’ ) experts, literature and additional experiences (see ‘What else?’ ).
More information about how to use the training material, the CIPAST experience and the CIPAST expert group is given in this part of training package.