Beyond consultation: Hybrid Forums for the development of nuclear energy
Projects 17th July 2018
Key contact: Reuben Holmes
A collaboration between The University of Manchester and National Nuclear Laboratory, this project will design what is known as a ‘hybrid forum’.
Traditional practices of public consultation are widely seen as limited in their ability to develop understanding about issues of public controversy and as a basis upon which to develop sustainable policy and planning.
In this collaborative project, researchers will experiment with the conventions of public engagement and consultation exercises, aiming to better draw out issues and solutions surrounding the development of nuclear energy.
They will initially test the hybrid forum method of consultation in a local environment on a non-nuclear topic. The forum will largely be an open space for dialogue, discussion and disagreement. It is defined as ‘hybrid’ due to the diversity of specialist knowledge and attendees.
These hybrid forums do not seek better ways of communicating the expert knowledge of technical specialists to a largely passive ‘public’, with the goal of correcting or ‘better informing’ views, but instead begin with the assumption that all the issues are not known in advance. Issues emerge out of dialogue and conversation during regular and periodic meetings of interested parties, such as scientists, citizen scientists, technicians, politicians and laypeople.
Controversy and uncertainty are not denied or back-staged but are considered a positive opportunity for learning and mutual understanding. Consecutive forums allow a dialogue between participants to evolve over time and new relationships to form out of initial controversies.
In this study, a series of hybrid forum events will take place and the performance and effectiveness of the method will be analysed. The technique will then be refined for further testing with ‘the public’ (including on specific nuclear issues).
New and unforeseen alliances and collaborations can emerge out of this process, as well as new and unanticipated knowledge and expertise which can often redefine the parameters and consequences of the project.
Research team: Penny Harvey, Damian O’Doherty, Richard Taylor, Reuben Holmes (National Nuclear Laboratory)