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October 24th, 2013 at 8pm


Dr. Kieran O'Doherty


A Role for Psychology in Public Deliberation on Science?


Public deliberation has attracted increasing attention as a mechanism for incorporating public voices in policy processes. Recently, public deliberation has also been trialled as a mechanism for involving publics specifically in areas of science and technology governance. In particular, public deliberation has been used to construct informed public opinion to help develop normative ethical guidelines in controversial areas of science. Implementing such deliberations requires interdisciplinary breadth, drawing on theory from political science, sociology, bioethics, and the particular areas of science being considered. The use of small group discussions and the focus on individual and public opinion also suggests a possible role for psychologists. However, to date the role of psychologists in conducting and theorising public deliberation has been limited. In this talk I would like to discuss some of the implications that deliberations on science have for psychology, as well as some of the ways in which psychological traditions might contribute to this emerging area of research and practice.


Dr Kieran O’Doherty is an Assistant Professor in the Department of Psychology, University of Guelph. Kieran undertook his undergraduate training at the University of the Witwatersrand, South Africa, with majors in physics and chemistry. He subsequently completed his honours and PhD degrees in psychology at the University of Adelaide, Australia. He has published broadly in the areas of health risk communication; public deliberation; media representations of asylum seekers; causal reasoning in the domain of genetic risk; and social aspects of genetics. His current research program focuses primarily on the social and ethical implications of emerging biotechnologies and the use of public deliberation to help inform policy. Recent publications include the volume “Public Engagement and Emerging Technologies” (co-edited with Edna Einsiedel). Kieran is currently funded by the Canadian Institutes of Health Research.

For more details on publications, collaborations, and current projects please visit his research group home page here:


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