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5th Iowa State University Summer Symposium on Science Communication

Confronting the challenges of public participation in environmental, planning and health decision-making

3-4 June 2016; Ames, Iowa

Submission deadline:  January 29, 2016

In January 2014, the editor of the leading journal Public Understanding of Science acknowledged that his publication has transitioned from the focus suggested by its name to a new focus on public engagement. Still, he wrote: “the meaning of this transition is not unambiguous.” The purpose of this conference is to explore these ambiguities, in a supportive, yet critical examination of the processes, outcomes and impacts of public participation in decision-making in natural resources, planning and health contexts. A variety of fields have taken up the call to develop new forms of interaction between experts and decision-makers, on one hand, and community residents, patients, landowners, industry representatives and other affected publics on the other. This expanding area for research and practice goes under a variety of names:  public participation, deliberation, dialogue, consensus communication, collaborative governance, participatory modeling, citizen science, among others. Significant creativity has been invested in developing specific practices–indeed, Rowe and Frewer (2005) list 113 mechanisms. We propose to explore both procedural and normative issues in the design, implementation and assessment of public participation processes. Public participation is widely expected to be “better”:  to lead to better physical and social science (e.g., better models), better social outcomes (e.g., trust, collaboration), and better decisions on environmental, health and planning issues. Our goal is to promote a conversation that asks: better in what ways, compared to what, and measured how? Continue reading 2016 Summer Symposium on Science Communication

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By Chen-Yu Kao, Dara M. Wald and Erik W. Johnston published on CPI website on Feb 17, 2014

To a large extent, our current public governance decision-making system is dominated by an unseen but influential negativity: the fear of failure.

Why Do Decision Makers Fear Failure?

Magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) has revealed that, for most people, our brains wage a battle between the lure of reward/success and a fear of failure. This process influences individual willingness to take risks (Risk and reward Compete in Brain). First identified in the 1960’s, an irrational fear of failure has been classified a phobia “Atychiphobia,” which can occur when an individual is expected to perform an unfamiliar or difficult task with a high risk of failure.

Despite possible individual differences, due to human biological and cognitive factors, fear of failure is strongly influenced by “social norms” which stigmatize or tolerate failure.  These differences in social norms, in terms of stigma of failure or tolerance of failure, strongly determine to what extent people are fearful of failure or willing to take risks. Our current public governance system is dominated by a social norm that stigmatizes failure. Therefore, decision makers in this system generally fear failure. Continue reading Failure Capacity in Public Governance Systems

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“That some people have more power than others is one of the most palpable facts of human existence.” Robert A. Dahl (1957, p 1).

For three years our team has explored the relationships among power inequalities and collaborative behavior (within the context of water resource management) (see CPI). We have focused on how and whether people are likely to cooperate with others to manage water collaboratively. Our preliminary results suggest an important relationship between social power (the ability to influence others by controlling resources; Fiske, 1993) and prosocial behavior (concern for the well-being of others and willingness to cooperate).

Within natural resource collaboration, power is the ability to control or withhold resources and influence decision making (Fiske, 1993; Reed, 2008). Natural resource management decisions are complex and often span several jurisdictions. Effective collaborative governance requires the sharing of power and resources between stakeholders. Unequal power has previously been described as a key barrier to natural resource co-management (for a definition of co-management and the stages of this process see Borrini-Feyerabend et al. 2007) (Ansell & Gash, 2008). The co-management of natural resources is uniquely susceptible to inequalities of power over scarce of resources and simultaneously necessitates collaboration between multiple diverse stakeholders (Ansell & Gash, 2008; Leach, 2006). Continue reading The Missing Link: Empathy, Power and Collaboration

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