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Consensus Conference. Definition The Consensus Conference is a method for lay people assessment, where a panel of ordinary citizens (around 14) meets an expert panel. . The Citizens Panel.

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Consensus Conference


The Consensus Conference is a method for lay people assessment, where a panel of ordinary citizens (around 14) meets an expert panel.

The Citizens Panel

Made out of a wide range of different opinions, the citizens panel defines the agenda during the two weekends prior the conference. They decide and formulate the key questions drawing upon the kind of expertise and documentation they ask for.

The questions are presented to a panel of experts in a public conference. The general public, experts in the field, invited stake holders, the media, and political representatives assist (and may even participate) to the discussion.


The conference creates a framework for a debate in which citizens’ thoughts and recommendations come face to face with the arguments and attitudes of politicians, experts and interested parties. In this way the technology debate is enriched and developed, people’s attitudes can be better informed and more qualified, citizens views are communicated and politicians and experts may learn to see a problem area in a new light.


  • Put light on controversial and complex topics
  • Create debate and produce knowledge on citizens’ views
  • Contribute to clarification and delimitation about knowledge, attitudes and values
  • Create advice: proposals and recommendations for policy making


On day 1 of the consensus conference the expert panel present answers to the questions from the citizens.

Day 2 is used for more questions, clarifications and deliberations between the 2 panels and the audience can contribute.

Hereafter on the day 3, the citizens panel deliberate and make conclusions and recommendations in a Final Document, devoted to inform policy decisions on the topic.

They present this report the last day of the conference and answer questions in the following debate. Members of Parliament are invited to come and receive the Final Document.

In Denmark, the public conference takes place

in the Parliament

Main steps

Compose an Advisory Group with important actors/stakeholders to validate procedures, introductory material, selection of experts and conference programme

Recruit randomly and select a panel of citizens without any specific relationship to the topic

Produce introductory material for the citizens panel and get acceptance from advisory group

Plan work of citizens panel to formulate and agree on key questions to experts

Select experts, who can answer the questions, get acceptance

Produce a programme for a 3-4 days conference, send out invitations and organise all practicalities

Support the panel’s writing of the Final Document

Dissemination of results; evaluation

Some tips

All sides of the issues should be addressed in the information package. However, the panelists will not necessarily have the time or the interest to go through the whole.

The writing of the report is a very intensive and quite difficult task.The help of a facilitator and/or a scribe is recommended. The report is structured around the key questions.


Since 1987 The DBT has held more than 30 consensus conferences in Denmark, for example on How can we assign value to the environment (2003) or Testing our genes? (2002).

More information in:

S. Joss and J. Durant (1995), Public Participation in science. The role of consensus conferences in Europe, Science Museum: London

Ida-Elisabeth Andersen and Gy Larsen, The Danish Board of Technology

Poster edited by Luis Aparicio and Delphine Ducoulombier