Public and Stakeholder Engagement in Environmental Policy and Decision-making

Plenary Session
Oral Presentation

Prepared by M. Farooque
ASU Consortium for Science, Policy and Outcomes, 1800 I St NW, Washington, DC, 20006, United States

Contact Information: [email protected]; 202-446-0397


The need for public engagement in environmental policy and decision-making is clear and increasingly mandated, especially for complex and emerging issues characterized by scientific uncertainties and value conflicts. For instance, in the case of biotechnology innovations such as gene drives, a 2016 U.S. National Academy report maintained that “public engagement cannot be an afterthought…. The outcomes of Engagement may be as crucial as the scientific outcomes to decisions about whether to release a gene-drive modified organism into the environment.” Similar concerns have been expressed by scientific advisory bodies on climate and energy innovations from solar radiation management to carbon dioxide removal. Federal agencies engaged in accelerating research and development are mandating a comprehensive approach to advancing equity and justice for all through upstream and authentic public and stakeholder engagement.

Despite the growing needs and mandates, few methods exist for integrating public engagement in environmental policy and decision-making. In 2010, a group of researchers, educators, and policy practitioners led by Arizona State University, the Museum of Science Boston, SciStarter, the Loka Institute, and the Woodrow Wilson International Center for Scholars established the Expert and Citizen Assessment of Science and Technology (ECAST) network to address this gap. Over the course of a decade, ECAST has developed an innovative and reflexive participatory technology assessment (pTA) method to support informed, inclusive, and democratic science policy decision-making.

The network has conducted public deliberations across the United States. ECAST’s portfolio of topics and sponsors include planetary defense (NASA), community resilience (NOAA), nuclear waste (DOE), gene drives (DARPA), driverless cars (Kettering Foundation and Charles Koch Foundation), geoengineering (Alfred P. Sloan Foundation) and human gene editing (NIH). This three-part presentation will identify the rationales and considerations for public engagement in science policy and decision-making, introduce the ECAST pTA methodology, and conclude with case study examples.