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Newsletter, February 2007

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After a good few months of writing, drawing, re-writing, and re-drawing, the sciencehorizons packs and website are now ready. 8 floors up at the Royal College of Art, overlooking the Albert Hall, we held a media launch with Science Minister Malcolm Wicks and a group of 12 RCA students using our discussion packs for the first time.

The conversation was really rich. The group covered organ donation ('If we know we can grow spares, how does that change how we treat our own organs'), Alzheimer's ('Does he have a say in his own treatment?'), health insurance ('Who can't have it, who can't afford it') and RFID (Radio Frequency IDentification) tags ('If we put all our trust in security technology, we become more fragile').

At one point, the Minister looked to the future and asked where the equivalent of the iPod would be for Alzheimer's. One of the students thoughtfully replied, 'I hope there isn't one. One button for one problem is dangerous.' A useful reminder to resist the temptation to simplify problems involving technology.

In 2007, we want as many people as possible to join in, to help us get an understanding of people's hopes and fears and help build a picture of the complexity of some of these future challenges.

If you would like to run a discussion event with a local community group, friends, colleagues, or family, you can now view all the materials online and request them in hard copy from the website or by emailing [email protected].

If you are interested in facilitating a larger public discussion event please get in contact - we may be able to help with marketing, facilitation or a contribution to the costs.


Also launched to the public this month was Drugsfutures, our project with OPM for the Academy of Medical Sciences.

At the event at the Dana centre, the head of the Working Group overseeing the project, Sir Gabriel Horn of Cambridge University, started by saying that drugs for ill-health or to enhance the brain are now coming along at a pace unimaginable even ten years ago. That raises questions about who is in charge. To illustrate the point, we saw a play about a young professional woman wrestling with a decision about using pills to fight mild depression.

The session then went two ways: half of the participants held discussions based on the play and more acts were performed later on the basis of what they said. The rest of us split up to discuss drugs and the law, drugs in society, drugs and the young and drugs for mental health, in two sessions led by medical journalist Geoff Watts. There was a drop-in event about cognition enhancers - also known as drugs for a smarter brain.

Computers terminals were available throughout the event so that people could make brief comments and observations on the drugsfutures blog, or answer more detailed questions in the online consultation. We want to involve as many people as possible in the web activities so do participate and pass this invitation on to anyone else you feel may be interested.

Sustainable Development Panel

For people who have been following the progress of the Sustainable Development Commission’s Panel you will be pleased to hear that the members of the Panel have now completed the first consultation on redefining progress. The consultation was run over three stages and the results will soon be available for the public to view via the Sustainable Development Commission’s Panel pages (http://www.sd-commission.org.uk/pages/sd_panel.html). Over 50% of the Panel members responded to the first stage of the consultation, resulting in a second round of questions that were more tightly focused on measuring wellbeing. The third stage of the process invited feedback on the process and it is quite pleasing for us to see that many people have embraced the virtual methods with open arms. Stayed tuned for the next topic up for consultation with Panel members…

Online consultation on the future of the London Borough of Richmond upon Thames - second round

As part of the development of a community plan for Richmond, the Borough’s Local Strategic Partnership has put together an online consultation which asks citizens to give their views on a range of policy issues, covering the areas ‘A greener and cleaner borough’, ‘Healthier communities, ‘A safer and stronger borough’, ‘Children and young people’ and ‘A vibrant and prosperous borough’. For these areas, participants were asked to prioritise service choices and then to give their views on what further might be done to improve services.

Young people were targeted specifically by providing a separate website which contained a shorter set of themes of particular interest for this group, by involving several local schools, and by publicising the launch of the consultation at several events aimed at families with children across the borough.

This project is an excellent example of how the Internet can be used to reach out to local people of all ages and involve them in the development of their community. The consultation has now gone into the second round, which allows participants to read a summary report as well as to browse through the responses received and to evaluate the consultation process.


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