Centre for Rural Economy


Deliberating the Environment

What happens if you invite a scientist and a non-scientist to discuss environmental issues collaboratively?

This project explored the potential of a novel institutional mechanism, the formal one-to-one deliberation or deliberative exchange, to facilitate mutual learning between two disparate groups. 

Twelve research participants were involved in the project - 6 academic scientists and 6 members of the public from the Newcastle area. They took part in a series of one-to-one meetings facilitated by a researcher. At the meeting, the two participants were asked to work together to address a small number of issues related to a particular environmental topic. The research addressed the following questions:

  1. Does the deliberative exchange provide a context in which people with very different backgrounds, beliefs and attitudes can learn from each other? 

  2. How much can we learn by recording deliberative exchanges and analysing how the participants communicate, especially how they try to explain things that may be unfamiliar to the other person? 

  3. How do the participants integrate scientific ideas with other relevant ideas? What are the obstacles to mutual understanding? 

  4. How do they explain their ideas, including scientific ideas, to each other?