The Social Dynamics Of Public Engagement In Stem Cell Research


This project aims to (i) to investigate views and concerns of diverse social groups about Stem Cell Research (SCR) and (ii) to explore the scope for increasing public engagement in the developing field. SCR evokes a wide range of social concerns relating both to the development of the technology and its potential application in human medicine. 'Public engagement' seeks to extend the scope and franchise of participation in science, technology and medicine. As a newly emergent technology, SCR is already propelling participants into public debate and raising concerns amongst scientists about the risk of mistrust and hostility. This proposed research will make a practical and analytical contribution to the development and investigation of public engagement techniques, drawing on qualitative research and dialogic techniques, underpinned by conceptual contributions from the sociology of scientific knowledge and public understanding of science. The research team is multi-disciplinary and will act as a mutual learning community through reflexive practice. The research design involves the participation of specialist and non-specialist groups in diverse forms of public engagement, to discuss issues about SCR. We adopt a symmetrical approach to researching scientists and publics, focussing on diversity and convergence. Building on 20 focus groups in the first stage of the study, we will utilise a range of established and experimental forms of public engagement as both topic and resource: 20 follow-up focus groups; 9 dialogic conversations; educational activities and a final public event. Feedback will be through web-based interactions, interviews and questionnaires. Analysis will address themes such as the situated nature of expertise; the construction of social issues in relation to SCR; perceived value of different forms of public engagement; ambivalence in the context of SCR. There will be a wide programme of academic and user dissemination.

Non Technical Summary

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Dr Sarah Parry

Dr Sarah Cunningham-Burley

Dr Wendy Faulkner

Prof Austin Smith

Ms Catherine Henderson

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16 April 2008
Stem Cell Research: Share Your Views About The Future

Come and discuss your views on the different sources of stem cells used in research and let your voice be heard

Wednesday 16th April
Quincentenary Hall
Surgeons' Hall Complex
Edinburgh EH8 9DW

Stem cell research involves using different types of cells and tissues, since stem cells can be derived from a number of different sources. Each source can raise issues regarding therapeutic potential, risk or ethical and social concerns. Currently, stem cell research uses:

Findings from our ongoing project “Talking Stem Cells: The Social Dynamics of Public Engagement in Stem Cell Research” show that people hold diverse views on these different sources of stem cells, how they might be used and how resources should be allocated between them.

To follow up from this research, we are organising an interactive event on the sources of stem cells, and would like to invite you to come along and help us explore your views in more detail. There will be the opportunity to view posters on different types of stem cells and to interact with a range of others, including research scientists, clinicians, patients and interested members of the public. You will also be asked to ‘decide for yourself’ which source(s) of stem cells have the most merit by casting a secret vote on where resources should be allocated.

There will also be a panel of experts, each championing a particular stem cell source:
Professor Richard Anderson (University of Edinburgh)
Professor Paul De Sousa (University of Edinburgh)
Professor Stephen Minger (Kings College London)
Professor Phil Newsome (University of Birmingham)
Dr Jenny Nichols (University of Cambridge)
Professor Austin Smith (University of Cambridge)
Chair: Mr Tom Morton (Scottish writer, broadcaster and musician)

All are welcome but places are limited!

If you would like to attend, please contact Sarah Parry on, by 31st March, to receive your ticket and information pack.


23 November 2006
Share Your Views about Women Donating Eggs for Stem Cell Research: a Public Debate

The report for this event is available here - pdf

Further information on the SCI EVENTS page

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