Deliberative quality and expertise : uses of evidence in citizens' juries on wind farms

Elstub, Stephen and Drury, Sara and Escobar, Oliver and Roberts, Jennifer (2018) Deliberative quality and expertise : uses of evidence in citizens' juries on wind farms. In: The Deliberative Quality of Communication Conference 2018, 2018-11-08 - 2018-11-09.

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Today the global political environment increasingly faces issues that spark tensions between expertise and lived experience. Scientific public problems draw attention towards this tension, as they require negotiation across and through multiple modes of claims and evidence, from technical and scientific to personal and moral (Gastil, 2017; Goodnight, 2005). Forms of democratic innovations, such as deliberative citizens’ juries, been proposed as a means of managing these tensions and to inform more representative and fairer decision making. But there are questions around participatory processes, scientific public problems, and deliberative quality. Two prominent forms of argumentation in public deliberation processes are derived from expertise and experience. Deliberative quality does not necessarily mean a reliance on either over the other, but rather a more flexible negotiation of different forms of argumentation. Arguments from expertise are referred to as argumentum ad verecundian, or appeals to authority (Walton, 2010; Woods & Walton, 1974). Yet appeals to expert opinion are not absolute, and may marginalize or ignore the perspectives of citizens. A localized deliberative context invites arguments from experiences. Such arguments are slightly harder to define, as they draw from a number of evidentiary sources, including personal experiences, interests, and local contexts. Frank Fischer (2000: 194-195) has labeled this sort of argumentation “local knowledge,” an expertise found from lived experiences, particular to the local culture and context. Some of the questions around deliberative quality and public deliberation over scientific issues remains around the use and interaction of different forms of argument. How, for example, might a public contextualize scientific evidence within localized values and culture? Or how might a public shift away from previously held values when confronted with compelling scientific claims? The 2013-2014 project “Citizens’ juries on wind farm development in Scotland” offers an opportunity to examine how different types of evidence impact deliberative quality in participatory public deliberations. This project organized and held three citizens’ juries deliberations in Scotland (Roberts & Escobar, 2015). These locations varied in proximity to active or proposed windfarms. In each location, a small group of 15-18 local citizens spent two days considering the question What should be the key principles for deciding about wind farm development, and why? The juries had an information phase when witnesses gave evidence and advocacy on energy, climate change, and wind farms. This was followed by a deliberation phase where the group considered, discussed, and decided their recommendations for key principles to guide onshore wind farm development in Scotland.Using transcripts from the citizens’ juries on wind farm development, this paper analyzes arguments from expertise and arguments from experiences, adopting an interpretative research methodology (Ercan, Hendriks, & Boswell, 2017) and utilizing theories of argumentation (Goodnight, 1982). The analysis will identify prominent forms and consider how they interact and function in decision-making, including when arguments may function to positively or negatively impact the quality of deliberation. As the juries’ experiences and deliberations differed across the sites, the findings here offer insights on discursive contours of the relationship between expertise, evidence, and quality deliberative argument.


Elstub, Stephen, Drury, Sara, Escobar, Oliver and Roberts, Jennifer ORCID logoORCID:;