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Listening Without Prejudice? Re-Discovering the Value of the Disinterested Citizen

Evans, Robert John and Plows, Alexandra Jane 2007. Listening Without Prejudice? Re-Discovering the Value of the Disinterested Citizen. Social Studies of Science 37 (6) , pp. 827-854. 10.1177/0306312707076602

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Public participation in technological decision-making is increasingly seen as de rigueur, but the limits and purpose of such participation remain open to debate. In this paper we explore the tension between different rationales for widening participation and examine their implications for its practice. Taking debates about medical genomics in the UK as an illustrative example, we argue that more heterogeneous participation and debate have the potential to improve the scrutiny and accountability of science within representative democracies. In doing so we also argue that it is necessary to replace the language of `lay expertise' with a more systematic and rigorous treatment of the expertise or its absence that characterizes different participants. Drawing on the theoretical work of Collins & Evans (2002), we distinguish between those processes where expert knowledge is required and debate is conducted within the public domain, rather than by the public itself, and those where the views of non-expert lay citizens are needed and valued. The effect of adopting this approach is to permit a more inclusive treatment of the `technical' while also providing a positive role for non-expert citizens in the democratic control and oversight of science.

Item Type: Article
Date Type: Publication
Status: Published
Schools: Social Sciences (Includes Criminology and Education)
Subjects: Q Science > Q Science (General)
Uncontrolled Keywords: democratizing science, expertise, public engagement with science and technology, public participation
Publisher: Sage
ISSN: 0306-3127
Last Modified: 17 Jun 2017 02:26

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