Analysis of a normative framework for evaluating public engagement exercises
In this study (supported by the Programme on Understanding Risk and the Leverhulme Trust), one normative framework for evaluating engagement processes is considered. The data used in this paper are drawn from an evaluation of the GM Nation? public debate, a major government-sponsored public engagement exercise that took place in the UK in 2003. One of its main objectives was to gather information about public views on genetically modified (GM) food and crops in order to inform UK government decision-making regarding the potential future commercialization of the technology. The present study focused on one component of the GM Nation? public debate: a series of six major open meetings. Participants were broken up into a large number of smaller groups, engaged in discussion, and finally participant moderators of the different groups presented their own summaries to the group at large. Participants then completed the organizers’ feedback questionnaire regarding views on GM foods and crops, as well as other questionnaires used in this study. A multi-method approach using qualitative and quantitative methods was adopted for the evaluation. This involved the use of participant questionnaires, structured observation, ethnographic techniques, in-depth interviews (with Steering Board members and other key stakeholders), media and document analysis, and a major survey of public opinion. The study does not aim to exhaustively cover all appropriate criteria by which engagement exercises ought to be evaluated but instead, it gives suggestions on how to improve the framework.
Full citation: Rowe, G., Horlick-Jones, T., Walls, J., Poortinga, W., & Pidgeon, N.F. (2008). Analysis of a normative framework for evaluating public engagement exercises: reliability, validity and limitations. Public Understanding of Science, 17, 419-441