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The role of evidence, evidence-providers and the evidence-giving format in citizens' juries

Jen Roberts, University of Strathclyde

Tue 28 March 2017

11:00am - 12:00pm

The Dryzek Room, Building 22, University of Canberra


Three citizens’ juries were run in different locations across Scotland in 2013/14, each with varying proximity to built and planned wind farms. One of the aims of this multi-disciplinary research project explored how deliberative processes, such as citizens’ juries, could be used to engage citizens and inform policy on public issues.  One of the key lessons for designing, organizing and facilitating citizens’ juries that arose from the project concerned the provision of information. This includes issues surrounding witness selection, the format of evidence provision, the evidence itself, and how the witnesses were supported through the project. Although the juries were successful overall, it was felt that the jurors might have benefited from more support to make sense of the issues at hand and relevance to their task. To enhance the valuable outcomes from this unique project it is important to establish if, and how, these issues could be avoided or managed for future deliberative processes.

Here, we revisit the process and consider how it could be improved so that contested evidence might be put forward in a way that is most useful (supportive, informative) to participants and most fair to the witnesses presenting the evidence. To inform our work, we draw on the experiences from other citizens’ juries that have been conducted on environmental or energy topics together with the learnings from the citizens’ juries on wind farms in Scotland project. We also interview the witnesses involved in the wind farms project to draw on their perspectives. These data are synthesised to examine the role of witnesses in presenting expert information, the processes of doing so, and how different roles or formats affect the experience of the witness and the audience. This enables us to recommend processes or approaches that will encourage a fair environment.

About the speaker

Jennifer Roberts is a pioneering young researcher linking energy systems with social and environmental risk. She uses her technical background in geoscience to address questions on the social and environmental impacts of energy developments, including CCS, unconventional gas, and onshore wind. Her work aims inform how a low-carbon energy system can be optimised and implemented in a way that is acceptable for the environment and society. On the strength of her genuinely interdisciplinary research she was awarded the Scottish Energy Researcher of the Year 2015 - Energy Infrastructure and Society category.

Jen’s work is closely linked with Scotland’s Centre of Expertise on Climate Change (ClimateXChange), which works to provide independent advice, research and analysis on climate change & policy in Scotland, and she regularly contributes to policy briefs, public events, and training workshops. Jen was the Research Co-ordinator for a ClimateXChange research project that conducted citizens’ juries in three locations in Scotland on the topic of onshore wind farm development, to trial the deliberative method and also to find out the publics’ views on the issue. The research highlighted some of the complexities of involving experts in deliberative processes, which is a theme she continues to follow in her research.

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