During 2015, Sciencewise developed a Sounding Board model as a form of deliberative engagement with public participants in response to requests from policy makers throughout Government for processes which are quicker and cheaper than most previous public dialogue projects.
The Environment Agency commissioned a Sciencewise Sounding Board to enable public input into the research priorities of the Environment Agency (EA) – a key environmental regulatory body – regarding onshore oil and gas. It was also intended to help the EA’s technical experts understand lay concerns. Discussion topics included the environmental impact of onshore oil and gas, how the EA could address public concerns, and what would build public confidence in EA research.
17 public participants were involved in the project, which ran from January-March 2016. Participants were recruited by a specialist agency using stratified random sampling. Information materials were circulated to support synchronous discussions involving public participants and EA researchers and the project was carried out using only online-only interactive sessions.
The EA valued this opportunity to confirm expectations about participant views, as well as seeing how these views developed over the sessions. The EA also reported that the project had helped them think about how to involve the public in future research planning.