The Use of Public Engagement for Technological Innovation

Literature Review and Case Studies

Published in: gov.uk website (2021)

Posted on RAND.org on January 29, 2021

by Camilla d'Angelo, Advait Deshpande, Emily Ryen Gloinson, Joe Francombe, Cagla Stevenson, Mann Virdee, Salil Gunashekar

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With the promise to improve lives, and the offer of abundant opportunities, technological innovation is regarded as a crucial enabler for the advancement of societies and economies at large. Technologies and their applications, however, also present an array of social, economic and regulatory challenges. How to harness the benefits of technological innovation while addressing the risks associated with these developments is the subject of much discussion by governments, regulators, industry, academia and the general public. A key aspect associated with these discussions and debates is public engagement, which is increasingly being recognised by stakeholders as a critical instrument to encourage transparency and openness, increase representativeness, and build trust in decision making and the technologies themselves.

Public engagement is a broad term that is used in a variety of sectors (e.g. in research, healthcare and policymaking). It encompasses diverse ways in which members of the general public can be brought together to engage with issues that are of public importance. In the context of technological innovation, public engagement is used to describe the involvement of a diverse group of people (the general public, but also other key groups such as lobbyists, civil society organisations and social influencers) in discussions and debates about potential applications of new and emerging technologies, their governance, regulation and the wider issues that could arise from the way that they are developed and adopted.

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