Consensus conference

Consensus conferences deal with topics limited in scope (not too abstract) which interest the public and require the intervention of scientific experts. Typically, they deal with technological choices which have not been resolved so far. A panel of participants is composed of about 15 voluntaries with different and complementary profiles, representative of the general population. The conferences usually last for 3 days. They gather a panel of citizens and a panel of experts together with a broader audience and journalists. The experts inform the public about the foreseeable consequences of the technology at stake and thus lay the ground of the debate ; they also answer the questions of the public. By the middle of the conference period, the writing of a draft is initiated, in which the citizen panel may express, without external constraints, their concerns, expectations and recommendations. Each of the members must approve the final draft — which is why it is called "consensus" conference — which will thereafter be displayed to relevant authorities, members of the Parliament or, more generally, public servants. Such an approach allows for bridging the gap between citizens and experts, and citizens and public authorities. In this perspective, media coverage is a crucial component, insofar as it broadens and triggers a larger societal debate.