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Focus groups and public involvement in the new genetics (PLA 40)

The way in which the public is viewed in much discussion around lay involvement in the new genetics also contributes to an undermining of their potential contribution. The 'deficit' model which regards the public's understanding of technical knowledge means they are unable to comment on relevant issue, still prevails, despite the serious challenge from social scientists. There is scope to work within the existing frameworks and the current consultative process to challenge this view. For example, the Medical Research Council, the Wellcome Trust and the Nuffield Council on Bioethics have all conducted public consultation exercises. Social scientists and others have also been involved in developing ways of involving the public through citizens' juries, consensus conferences, surveys, internet conferences and voting, public debates, and focus group research.

This article was published in PLA 40: Deliberative Democracy and Citizen Empowerment (February 2001). Participatory Learning and Action (PLA, formerly PLA Notes) is the world's leading series on participatory learning and action approaches and methods. PLA publishes articles on participation aimed at practitioners, researchers, academics, students and activists. All articles are peer-reviewed by an international editorial board.

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