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Public Participation in Environmental Assessment and Decision Making
this literature provides a wealth of hypotheses awaiting tests. The available evidence suffers from the diversity of concepts and the lack of agreed measures, creating a daunting task for anyone seeking clear answers to questions about the effects of public participation and the conditions under which particular results are likely to occur. In our judgment, considering the current state of knowledge, it makes sense to assess the evidence by considering three kinds of results: the quality of assessments or decisions, their legitimacy, and changes in the capacity of public participants, scientists, and agency officials to participate in similar decisions in the future. To draw inferences most confidently, it is important to consider these kinds of results at or soon after the end of the public participation process.
1These are not the only useful functions public participation can perform. Research on methods for managing the use of common-pool resources identifies some “governance requirements” not listed in Box 2-1 that might be promoted by public involvement. They include dealing with conflict, inducing compliance with rules, and encouraging adaptation and change (Stern, Dietz, and Ostrom, 2002; Dietz, Ostrom, and Stern, 2003).
2Gastil (2008) and Parkinson (2006) also posit connections between theoretical framings for public participation and methods for conducting participatory processes. Unlike Renn’s taxonomy, their work is not focused on environmental assessment and decision making.
3We acknowledge as a problem that assessment immediately after a process may be premature to the extent that the process itself helps shape participants’ values and preferences regarding environmental issues (see, e.g., Gregory and McDaniels, 1987; Fischhoff and Furby, 1988; Fischhoff, 1991; Gregory, Lichtenstein, and Slovic, 1993; Dietz and Stern, 1998). In principle, one indicator of success, especially for emergent environmental issues, might be that the process helps shape public values and preferences on emergent issues. However, we see no way to determine in which direction public preferences should change as a result of successful public participation and so do not propose this type of indicator.
4These elements elaborate on the injunction offered by the National Research Council (1996) with regard to risk assessments, to get the right science and get the science right. The revised language here partly reflects our concern with decisions as well as assessments.