POIESIS Focus Groups in Spain

April 23, 2024

The INGENIO (CSIC- UPV) POIESIS team, Dr Irene Monsonís-Payá and Dr Richard Woolley, together with three local co-investigators, undertook the Spanish focus groups with institutional stakeholders from public and private organisations. The three focus groups were hold online in March 2024, and a total of 16 professionals were invited and joined the conversations on research integrity, social integration and public trust.

Participants generated informed and considered discussion about the relationships between institutions, researchers and scientific communities, and public trust in science. They affirmed that trust in scientists, as a socially valued profession, had been historically high in Spain and remained so now. However, it was very evident throughout discussions that this strong level of public trust was considered to be under threat. It was consistently argued that social media platforms had opened up a space in which scientific credibility was undermined by ‘vocal minorities’. These alternative voices were viewed as having superior capability and technique to attract attention to alternative views of socio-technical controversies, with the Covid-19 pandemic often cited as an example. 

A consistent view emerged that the institutional and organisational development of research ethics and integrity (REI) in Spain was in an early stage of its development and professional institutionalization. A consensus also emerged in relation to the barriers and difficulties that accompany efforts to enhance citizen participation in research. However, a general sentiment regarding the mutual benefits that can flow from bringing science and society ‘closer together’ or into better alignment, was expressed across all focus groups. Participants in institutional roles that are the most distant from research voiced a strong alternative opinion - that social integration in science was not a priority, believing that experts should continue to take responsibility for science-related decisions. These participants leaned toward questioning whether it was appropriate to expect citizens to assume roles and responsibilities in such highly technical domains.

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