Who counts as a member of ‘the public’ may be anyone who is not primarily acting as an agent of political authority or of a relevant profession. In this sense, who makes up the public will depend on the issue at hand and the kind of interest and relationships they have to it. One person may have both a personal and social interest as a member of the public, and possibly also an interest through their work experience or sphere of professional interest.

 Relevant publics will emerge around a particular issue; some will assert their interests while others may need to be sought out and efforts made to involve them.

Examples Examples

Ireland - Public debate concerning abortion and the repeal of the eighth amendment to the constitution (2016)

A Citizen’s Assembly comprising a representative group of 99 citizens and a chairperson appointed by the Government was formed to advise a parliamentary committee on repealing the Eighth Amendment to the Constitution, which prohibited abortion.

Germany - Public discourse on genome editing (2019)

The project Genomchirurgie im gesellschaftlichen Diskurs engaged different groups, including school children. The students took part in a simulation game about a gene drive technology with their teachers using a specially developed toolkit.

United Kingdom - Public engagement on brain science, addiction and drugs (2007-2008)

The United Kingdom example of public debate “Public Engagement on Brain Science, Addiction and Drugs” demonstrated the value of taking innovative steps to involve hard-to-reach groups who may find it difficult to participate openly in invited public debate activities.


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