A TranSTEP group will be convened when a problem owner identifies a specific, complex problem that needs resolution or action. This problem must be given a preliminary definition by the problem owner, allowing for establishing a TranSTEP secretariat that will assist to initially select relevant participants to the TranSTEP group. The potential participants should be hand-picked to ensure the necessary width in expertise. It may be useful to interview potential participants in advance in order to ensure they are committed to engaging in such a dialogue.
Characteristics of a TranSTEP group
The TranSTEP group consists of people representing different advisory domains (risk assessment, ethics assessments, etc.), ensuring that the participants are well-informed about existing assessments in the field of interest, as well as about general assessment methodology, also allowing for learning processes that extend into the participants’ home assessment communities. The problem owner(s) should be represented in the group, in order to enhance the integrated assessment’s relevance, but also to stimulate learning processes in the problem owner’s own organisation. Finally, the group should include representatives from science and industry, civil society, and government.
The participation of each member should be justified on the website, so that the group composition is transparent. The organisers should consider how the composition of the group will be perceived by the public or important stakeholders.
In order to secure trust and open dialogue in the group the number of group members should not exceed approximately fifteen.
During the meetings of the TranSTEP group it might be useful to split the group into sub-groups in order to encourage freer discussion, in particular if the discussion in the larger group stops up or becomes circular.
Recruiting participants for the TranSTEP process
The secretariat will in close collaboration with the problem owner:
- Provide a preliminary issue formulation
- Identify from this the relevant individuals to invite to the process
- These can be national or international participants depending on the problem to be solved
- From 8-15 participants, but most domains should be represented, as well as the important stakeholders and policy/decision makers
- There should be a reasonable gender balance
- Develop briefing documents about the process
- Invite the identified individuals and send them the briefing documents
Challenges: Convening the right team can be challenging. Personal characteristics of the participants are important; they must be willing to engage in dialogue and to see issues from different perspectives, otherwise the dialogue may effectively stop. Another challenge can be to identify representatives from domains and stakeholder groups that are willing and able to dedicate the required time. Emphasising that the process is related to specific, urgent decisions to be taken may function as motivation for potential participants.
It should be noted that the TranSTEP group is quite small, and the selection of participants will influence the outcome. In particularly controversial cases it might be advisable to explicitly ask for external input on the minutes from the meetings, so that the group can consider challenges from a wider audience. This can be done by a call for such input on a dedicated website, on social media, or by contacting specific groups of interested parties that are not involved in the TranSTEP process directly. An option is to organise one or more open meetings where a wider range of stakeholders and/or citizens are asked to provide feedback on the preliminary work of the group.