As our best mechanism for systematic information curation, science is integral to society and a pillar of enlightened debates about how to achieve human well-being and collective flourishing. Therefore, widening rifts in policy preferences or value priorities between the scientific community and certain social groups threaten the “soul” of democracy, as DeTocqueville called it—i.e., a public sphere in which all viewpoints are considered in good-faith, and that balances scientific evidence alongside other policy-relevant considerations.
Our project first asks what it means for scientists and non-expert publics to be prepared—in their traits and beliefs, across different issue and interaction contexts—for good-faith science deliberation in the public sphere. We then propose to assess the baseline health of stakeholders’ positions on the constituent elements of “preparedness” we identify. Crucially, scientists will be included in our preparedness assessments. In the context of disagreements related to values or morality (as we know tend to shape opinion cleavages on human brain organoids, gene editing, and artificial intelligence), scientists may not be as prepared for good-faith deliberation as they would be, perhaps, for discussions arising from knowledge-based conflicts.
To put our results into action, the third and final year of our project will focus on mapping a new problem landscape for science deliberation, designed to provide a translational roadmap for evidence informed public engagement initiatives and intervention strategies designed to overcome science-society conflicts. This action plan will be created in collaboration with our partner organizations on this project, who are actively engaged with stakeholders in scientific and religious communities, as well as philanthropy and other networks. The project will culminate in an in-person summit with these leaders to chart pathways forward for practical and institutional change based on our results.