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Beyond public perceptions of gene technology: Community participation in public policy in Australia

Dietrich, H. and Schibeci, R. (2003) Beyond public perceptions of gene technology: Community participation in public policy in Australia. Public Understanding of Science, 12 (4). pp. 381-401.

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Public policy assumptions, which view “the public” as passive consumers, are deeply flawed. “The public” are, in fact, active citizens, who constitute the innovation end of the seamless web of relationships, running from research and development laboratory to shop, hospital or farm, or local neighborhood. “The public” do not receive the impact of technology; they are the impact, in that they determine with gene technology (GT) developers and sellers what happens to the technology in our society. In doing so, they, or more rightly we, exercise particular, contextual knowledges and actions. We suggest that it is the ignorance of this aspect of innovation in policy processes that produces the distrust and resentment that we found in our interviews with “publics” interested in gene technology. This is consistent with Beck’s description of the deep structural states of risk and fear in modern advanced societies with respect to new technologies, such as gene technology. Only policy processes that recognize the particular, local, and contextual knowledges of “the public,” which co-construct innovation, can achieve deep, social structural consideration of gene technology. And only such a deep consideration can avoid the polarized attitudes and deep suspicions that we have seen arise in places such as Britain. Such consideration needs the type of processes that involve active consultation and inclusion of “the public” in government and commercial innovation, the so-called deliberative and inclusionary processes (DIPs), such as consensus conferences and citizen juries. We suggest some measures that could be tried in Australia, which would take us further down the path of participation toward technological citizenship.

Item Type: Journal Article
Murdoch Affiliation(s): School of Education
Publisher: Sage Publications
Copyright: 2003 SAGE
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