Program on Science, Technology and Society at Harvard|
Melanie Smallman is a Visiting Research Fellow with the Program on Science, Technology & Society (STS) at the Harvard Kennedy School of Government. Her research looks at how society influences science and technology, particularly focusing on the role of public dialogue activities. While at Harvard, Melanie will be comparing US and UK approaches to incorporating public perspectives in policymaking.
Melanie recently submitted her PhD in Science and Technology Studies at University College London. Her thesis used a computer assisted text analysis technique to consider whether the UK’s 10 year-long experiment in public dialogue has brought science policy closer to the values of the public. Her research at Harvard aims to build on this research, to compare the UK’s approach to involving the public in discussions about science policy, to the US’s attempt to incorporate public reasoning into scientific policymaking through expert ethics committees. While these ethics committees might have similar objectives to the UK’s attempts to engage the public directly, it is a very different approach and one that appears to be much more in-tune with the way in which policymakers conceive of evidence and expertise. So has it resulted in similarly different outcomes for policy? Is this approach more or less effective in reflecting public imaginaries and feeding them into policy? What do the differences tell us about the respective civic epistemologies at play in the UK and US? Most importantly, what can the processes tell us about the way in which society shapes scientific and technological developments in the two countries?
Alongside her research, Melanie is Deputy-Director of the Responsible Research and Innovation Hub at UCL and is founder and Director of Think-Lab, the UK’s first science communication consultancy, having spent eight years as an adviser within Government.
Smallman M (2014). PUS in turbulent times III – Deficit to dialogue, champions to critics. Public Understanding of Science, September 2014 1-12.
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