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Evaluating the First U.S. Consensus Conference: The Impact of the Citizens' Panel on Telecommunications and the Future of Democracy

Consensus conferences, also known as citizens’ panels – a collection of lay citizens akin to a jury but charged with deliberating on policy issues with a high technical content – are a potentially important way to conduct technology assessments, inform policy makers about public views of new technologies, and improve public understanding of and participation in technological decision making. The first citizens’ panel in the United States occurred in April 1997 on the issue of “Telecommunications and the Future of Democracy.” This article by David H. Guston of Rutgers University evaluates the impact of this citizens’ panel. Science, Technology, & Human Values, Vol. 24, No. 4, 451-482 (1999). Sage Publications.

The standard criteria to evaluate the impact of analyses focus on the ‘actual impact’ and on the ‘impact on general thinking.’ To these standard criteria, this article introduces the evaluation of two impacts related to learning: impact on the training of knowledgeable personnel and the interaction with lay knowledge. The impact evaluation is based on a nearly comprehensive set of semistructured telephone interviews with the participants in the panel.

Resource Link: sth.sagepub.com/cgi/content/short/24/4/451

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