Public participation is now seen as essential to shaping innovations for sustainability that meet social needs, draw on the best available knowledge, meet conditions of public acceptability, and are implementable. To date, approaches to involving the public in decisions over controversial science and technology have followed fixed models for engagement (e.g. focus groups) and focused on singular events. However, recent work in disciplines such as science and technology studies, geography and political science has revealed the performative, constructed, partial and uncertain nature of these forms of engagement. A major challenge in this field is to devise new approaches that are able to map across diverse forms of public participation in science-related issues, gather crucial forms of social intelligence for citizens and policymakers alike, and allow for ongoing monitoring of public views and actions.
This PhD project aims to develop and evaluate an approach for mapping diverse forms of public participation in areas of controversial science and technology. The proposed controversial context is energy, climate change and net zero in the UK (although the specific case will be defined by the interests of the student). The project will entail: (i) reviewing and receiving training in existing concepts and approaches to mapping public participation; (ii) developing a mapping approach on the basis of this review and interviews with key user groups; (iii) applying the approach to a live case; and (iv) evaluating the mapping approach and its future development with policymakers and civil society actors. This PhD will make a major contribution to developing new approaches to better account for plural public values, visions and concerns in controversial areas of science and innovation. This project would suit excellent candidates with social science or interdisciplinary environmental science background. Some knowledge of science and technology studies is desirable but not essential.