Our recent evaluation of the Sciencewise Expert Resource Centre, which helps policy makers to understand and use public dialogue to inspire, inform and improve policy decisions around science and technology, showed that some projects undertaken would have benefited from including data from previous public engagement on the topics.

So, over the next few months we’re going to focus on gathering ‘social intelligence’ on a range of areas in science and technology.  As I was recently asked whether social intelligence was the same as emotional intelligence I’d better just say that for the purposes of this piece of work our definition of social intelligence is what we know about public attitudes toward a particular subject, what the media has reported on that topic, and any significant buzz there has been about it on social networks.

Last year we undertook a couple of pieces of such intelligence gathering on the topics of GM and nanotechnology. Both of which were used by the Department for Business Innovation & Skills to brief their Minister for Universities and Science, David Willetts.

The great eight

In a speech at the Royal Society last November, Chancellor of the Exchequer, George Osborne talked about how science is a driver of the UK economy and of his commitment to its future funding. He went on to identify eight areas of science and technology in which he thought Britain had the potential for global leadership. And so it has come to pass, in policy circles, that these have become known as the ‘eight great technologies’.

- The data revolution and energy-efficient computing
- Synthetic biology: Harnessing the $100 billion bioeconomy
- Regenerative medicine
- Agri-science
- Energy storage and the stockpiling of electricity
- Advanced materials and nanotechnology
- Robotics and autonomous systems
- Opportunities to be a world leader in satellites and commercial applications of space technology.

Over the next couple of months we’re planning to continue our social intelligence-gathering work predominantly driven by the great eight. Namely, public perspectives and buzz around big data and issues of privacy; a look at any new intelligence that has appeared since the Sciencewise dialogue on synthetic biology back in 2010; energy infrastructure; robotics and autonomous systems; wellbeing and regenerative medicine; satellites and commercial applications of space; advanced materials including nanotechnology; and animal testing.

In a speech given last week at Policy Exchange, the self-described ‘UK’s leading think tank’,  Willetts put his money where Osborne’s mouth was and announced a funding boost for the great eight including an extra £25 million for the National Space Technology Programme. But, why not let us have some of your intelligence and tell us what you think the buzz is around the great eight?