From 'trust us' to participatory governance: Deliberative publics and science policy

Public Underst Sci. 2014 Jan;23(1):48-52. doi: 10.1177/0963662512472160.


The last 20 years have seen a shift from the view that publics need to be educated so that they trust science and its governance to the recognition that publics possess important local knowledge and the capacity to understand technical information sufficiently to participate in policy decisions. There are now a variety of approaches to increasing the role of publics and advocacy groups in the policy and governance of science and biotechnology. This article considers recent experiences that demonstrate that it is possible to bring together those with policy making responsibility and diverse publics to co-produce policy and standards of practice that are technically informed, incorporate wide social perspectives and explicitly involve publics in key decisions. Further, the process of deliberation involving publics is capable of being incorporated into governance structures to enhance the capacity to respond to emerging issues with levels of public engagement that are proportionate to the issues.

Keywords: Biobank governance; biotechnology governance; ethics; health policy; public participation; public participation in policy; public understanding of science; science policy.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Biological Specimen Banks / legislation & jurisprudence
  • Biological Specimen Banks / organization & administration
  • Biotechnology / legislation & jurisprudence
  • Biotechnology / organization & administration
  • Community Participation*
  • Humans
  • Policy Making
  • Public Opinion
  • Public Policy* / legislation & jurisprudence
  • Science / legislation & jurisprudence
  • Science / organization & administration*
  • Trust