(un)natural: Ideas about naturalness in public and political debates about science, technology and medicine


Published 30/11/2015

Booklet cover
Naturalness quotes

Evidence on the ways that ideas about naturalness feature in public debates was collected in a number of ways, which are detailed below. The development of the Analysis Paper was informed by this evidence, as well as a wide range of academic work from philosophy, social science and bioscience.

Review of media, Parliamentary, civil society and science sources

A review of how the terms natural, unnatural and nature have been used in media articles, Parliamentary debates, and the reports of civil society and science organisations in the recent past was carried out. Material on a range of topics was examined and uses of the terms were sorted into one of four different categories: value-laden, value-neutral, borderline cases and discussion uses. This work provides insights into the regularity with which these terms are used to invoke ideas about value within debates about science technology and medicine, and identifies differences in how these words are used in particular areas and sources of public debate.

Download the review of media, parliamentary, civil society and science sources.

Summary of use in commercial sector

A review of how use of the terms natural and nature are currently regulated in different parts of the commercial sector was conducted.

Review of research on public perspectives

A review of research into public views and public dialogue activities investigating how people perceive naturalness and the meaning of the word natural was conducted. The review explores academic work conducted on this topic with members of the public over the last 15 years in the UK and western world.

Download the review of research on public perspectives.

Review of Nuffield Council on Bioethics reports

A review of how the concept of naturalness has been used, cited and discussed within the previous work of the Nuffield Council on Bioethics was carried out.

Download the review of Nuffield Council on Bioethics reports.

Roundtable meeting with experts

In September 2015, a meeting with experts in relevant fields brought together 25 people with professional experience of public debates about science, including journalists, Government officials, an ex-MP and Parliamentary staff, scientists, representatives of civil society groups and academic researchers. Under Chatham House rules, the meeting provided an opportunity to discuss the issues, test project findings and generate ideas and feedback on possible recommendations.

Download a note of this meeting.

Dialogue meeting with members of the public

In October 2015, a meeting with members of the public was organised and facilitated by Dialogue by Design involving a diverse group of 13 members of the public who had no professional or particular experience of the topic. The meeting provided an opportunity to discuss the issues, test project findings and generate ideas and feedback on possible recommendations.

Download a report of the public dialogue workshop.

Poetry residency

The Council commissioned poet Kayo Chingonyi to help it think creatively about how words and language are used to express ideas about naturalness. Kayo produced an initial piece of work based on his early thoughts on the topic in August and further works towards the conclusion of the project in November. Find out more about Kayo’s work with the Council.