Public dialogue and debate

As well as informing the wider world about our science, talking to the public about how, or whether, a scientific activity should be carried out is a good way of making sure a programme of research benefits from the public's ideas and takes account of public opinion in its design and the communication of its results.

Informally this can happen through a range of activities, for example exhibitions, school events, panel debates at science festivals or café scientifique, through which researchers can meet the public face-to-face at any stage of their research. These events give the public the chance to learn about and question research findings, and give scientists insight into audiences views and questions around which they might want to modify their future research plans.

Formal, or deliberative, public dialogue happens before the research starts, and brings the public and scientists together to explore issues around a particular theme. It gives members of the public a chance to develop their understanding of the area of proposed research and for the researchers to discover any concerns they may have. The researchers can then consider these concerns when designing research activities. Dialogue helps scientists see their research from a different point of view and to encounter opinions and concerns that may be representative of wider society's view.

An important long-term benefit of this kind of dialogue is that, by taking account of a wider range of viewpoints, scientists can make their research outputs more relevant and applicable to wider society.