BOX 9-1

Diagnostic Questions to Assess the Challenges to Public Participation in a Particular Context

Questions About Scientific Context

  1. What information is currently available on the issues? How adequate is available information for giving a clear understanding of the problem? Do the various parties agree about the adequacy of the information?

  2. Is the uncertainty associated with the information well characterized, interpretable, and capable of being incorporated into the assessment or decision?

  3. Is the information accessible to and interpretable by interested and affected parties?

  4. Is the information trustworthy?

Questions About Convening and Implementing Agencies

  1. Where is the decision-making authority? Who would implement any agreements reached? Are there multiple forums in which the issues are being or could be debated and decided?

  2. Are there legal or regulatory mandates or constraints on the convening agency? What laws or policies need to be considered?

Questions About the Abilities of and Constraints on the Participants

  1. Are there interested and affected parties who may have difficulty being adequately represented?

    1. What does the scale of the problem, especially its geographic scale, imply for the range of affected parties?

    2. Are there disparities in the attributes of individual potential participants that may affect the likelihood of participation?

    3. Are there interests that are diffused, unorganized, or difficult to reach?

    4. Are there disparities across groups of participants in terms of their financial, technical, or other resources that may influence participation?

  1. What are the differences in values, interests, cultural views, and perspectives among the parties? Are the participants polarized on the issue?

  2. Are there substantial disparities across participant groups in their power to influence the process?

  3. To what degree can the individuals at the table act for the parties they are assumed to represent?

  4. Are there significant problems of trust among the agency, the scientists, and the interested and affected parties?

    1. Are there indications that some participants are likely to proceed insincerely or to breach the rules of the process?

    2. Are some participants concerned that the convening agency will proceed in bad faith?

    3. Do some participants view the scientists as partisan advocates and so mistrust them?

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