Abstract

The recently completed National Citizens' Technology Forum (NCTF) was the first nationwide consensus conference in the US. This paper argues that the exercise serves as a proof-of-concept for this mode of public participation in the governance of emerging technologies. The NCTF demonstrated the feasibility of conducting such exercises across three time zones, and illustrated the compatibility of the consensus conference process with American political norms in practice. It provides additional evidence that, given a structured, constructive environment for deliberation, and access to information and expertise, lay citizens can and do produce policy-relevant recommendations in highly technical arenas. Finally, the experience indicates opportunities for future improvements in integrating input from the public, stakeholders, and experts into the policy-making process.