In the last decades, the involvement of civil society and citizens in policy deliberation and decision-making processes relating to scientific and technical issues has undergone significant and also highly heterogeneous changes in European countries.
Following public controversies about energy policy issues in the 1970s and 1980s, the emergence of biotechnology and environmental protection have especially led to an increasing involvement of citizens and stakeholders in assessment and deliberation procedures, which had previously largely remained confined to experts and decision-makers. Ways of involving civil society have been very diverse, ranging from social mobilisations, the development of associations and NGOs, to the introduction of formal participatory procedures in more or less institutionalised decision-making and deliberation settings.
Bringing the actors together, pooling their various capacities, and integrating their various contextual perspectives through a common platform, will provide an opportunity to disseminate useful practices more efficiently, to boost innovation, and to foster the emergence of a European culture of participatory democracy in scientific and technological issues.
The CIPAST-Project, which started on April, 1st and is coordinated by Cité de la Sciènces et de l’Industrie, Paris, aims at bringing together organisations which have significant experiences in the use of participatory procedures in scientific and technological issues, or belong to the different families of experienced actors in that field such as parliamentary offices, research institutes, science shops or science museums, or are already structured in European networks.
These organisations will be mobilized for setting up a training programme tailored to the various contexts in which participation of civil society is relevant. The training programme will be designed by processing experience feedback gained from 40 international organisations with recent practice in participatory initiatives. The target audience for this training programme will be decision-makers belonging not only to the political sphere, but also to research sector, non profit organisations and industry. A special effort will be made to identify participants in the new member states of the E.U.
Relying on that transfer of expertise and training activity, the CIPAST platform will support the structuring of an expanded network of European organisations involved in participatory processes, thanks to the management of a discussion list, a website and an European newsletter, and to the organisation of several workshops and a final conference.
Project partners are: Rathenau Institute (Den Haag, NL), Danish Board of Technology (Kopenhagen, DK), University of Westminster (London, Centre for Studies of Democracy, UK), Université de Lausanne (Science and Society Interface, CH), Citta della Scienza (Naples, I), Deutsches Hygienemuseum (Dresden, D), INSERM (Paris, F), INRA (Paris, F), ARMINES (Paris, F), Fondation Nationale des Sciences Politiques (Paris, F) and the Bonn Science Shop. The project – which started at 1st April 2005 – is coordinated by the Cité des Sciences et de l´Industrie, Paris, France. (see partners)
CIPAST has been awarded financial support by the European Commission through the contract No. 013518 in the framework of “Coordination Action”; programme “Structuring the European Research Area”