Biomedical innovation encompasses a wide range of technologies, including data and genomic science, AI, and personalised medicine, for example. These innovations will radically affect the way we all live our lives and interact with health services.

Parties to this Convention shall see to it that the fundamental questions raised by the developments of biology and medicine are the subject of appropriate public discussion in the light, in particular, of relevant medical, social, economic, ethical and legal implications, and that their possible application is made the subject of appropriate consultation.

Article 28, Oviedo Convention

I was invited by the Council of Europe to contribute to a high-level seminar to explore how to ensure that the public are effectively involved in the debate about the medical, social, economic, ethical and legal implications of these innovations.

In my talk, I highlighted the fact that governments that attempt to promote public engagement on scientific innovation often want two contradictory outcomes. On the one hand, they want a broad, open and vigorous public debate. On the other, they also want robust evidence about what different communities, who often don’t take part in the wider public debate, think about a particular innovation.

The challenge for governments is how to connect different forms of public engagement in ways that properly inform both action and decisions. If this is to happen effectively, governments and scientists will have to be more open to a wider range of views and perspectives.

A full video of the seminar is available: Morning session, Afternoon session