Making dialogue work

Macnaghten, Phil; Shah, Esha; Ludwig, David


Instigating dialogue with heterogeneous stakeholders is commonly presented as a necessary ingredient to develop science with and for society. Such objectives are central to the framework of responsible innovation designed to align the process and the outcomes of science and innovation to the values, needs, and expectations of society. However, what conditions need to be in place for dialogue to fulfil these goals? In this chapter we analyse two case studies that make use of societal dialogues on the future of gene editing. In the first case, we analyse dynamics of inclusion and exclusion at a recent CRISPRcon conference at Wageningen University. While presenting itself as a forum for diverse voices, we find the conference constructed an affective frame about revolutionary promises that reinforced the perspectives of dominant stakeholders. In the second case, we describe an alternative approach making use of focus group discussions with lay publics, designed to open up context, framing, and moderation for collaborative negotiation of heterogeneous concerns. While not providing simple solutions, they created a space in which competing values and views could be shared and negotiated, and which, we argue, can better contribute to responsible, just, and inclusive innovation.