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Engaging in public dialogue

16 May 2014

Dr Richard Watermeyer

Dr Richard Watermeyer

Dr Richard Watermeyer from the School of Social Sciences has led three large scale UK-wide consultations with the public to evaluate their views on emerging IVF technologies, the benefits and risks of clinical trials and likely policy issues in science and technology research.

All three reports have been supported by Sciencewise-ERC; a national centre that offers co-funding and specialist advice and support to Government departments and agencies to develop and commission public dialogue activities in emerging areas of science and technology.

The first report was co-funded by the Human Fertilisation and Embryology Authority (HFEA) and Sciencewise to gather the public’s views on the social and ethical impact of emerging IVF-based techniques to prevent the transmission of mitochondrial disease.

The public consultation process involved public workshops, open meetings, a public survey, focus groups and an open consultation questionnaire. The findings from the research will be used by the Secretary of State for Health to help decide whether Government should seek Parliamentary approval to make the techniques available to patients.  

‘Mitochondria Replacement Consultation’ - view the full report on the HFEA website

The second evaluation carried out by Dr Watermeyer along with Dr Andrew Bartlett (Cardiff School of Social Sciences) was co-funded by the Health Research Agency (HRA) and Sciencewise on Public and Patient Engagement (PPE).

This project aimed to explore expectations around the benefits and risks of clinical trials and research involving patients, the ethical issues that might arise, and to gain views on how the public should be engaged and influence the HRA in the future.

The results were presented by the HRA to the House of Commons Select Committee on Science and Technology inquiry on clinical trials and referred to by the Department of Health and the Academy of Medical Sciences in their own evidence to the Committee.

The dialogue results have also fed into the HRA development of guidance for researchers on Information for Patients at the End of a Study. More widely, having seen the results of the dialogue, the National Institute for Health Research is revising its plans for training materials for patients.

Public and Patient Engagement Project’ – view the full report on the Sciencewise website

The third evaluation report was commissioned by the Department for Business, Innovation and Skills (BIS) and Sciencewise as a horizon-scanning project designed to develop a list of policy issues likely to face the UK Government in the next five to ten years concerning scientific and technological developments.

Some of the priority issues identified as part of this evaluation were the rising cost of high quality health and medical care, reducing carbon emissions, meeting the UK’s long-term skills requirements and the use of machines to carry out tasks.

‘Public input to the Sciencewise horizon-scanning workshop project’ - view the full report on the Sciencewise website

Dr Richard Watermeyer is a Research Fellow at Cardiff University’s School of Social Sciences who is currently seconded as a Science Policy Research Analyst for the Office of the Chief Scientific Adviser for Wales.