New approaches to engaging the public in considering regenerative medicine’s wicked policy issues

The field of regenerative medicine promises important advances in scientific understanding and clinical treatments, but it also raises various ethical, commercial and social issues, including the concerns associated with the growing private market for unproven stem cell treatments. Determining how to respond to these kinds of complex issues requires engaging key stakeholders, including the public. Public information campaigns (PICs) traditionally seek to distribute information to audiences in order to influence perspectives and behaviour. Online resources and PICs using social media platforms could allow for higher levels of engagement and broader scope of information sharing than PICs using traditional print materials are able to, particularly if they take advantage of ‘network governance’ strategies.

What background and points are discussed?

Traditional PICs, which often relied on print materials, are transitioning to using more online forms of communication, including social media. Professor Zarzeczny and Dr McNutt discuss that using the Internet and social media to promote PIC material offers the benefit of allowing audiences to engage with PICs (for example, by adding their own content) and to participate in distributing the information among their own online networks. This information sharing may promote the spread of ideas and knowledge throughout a group and encourage a process called social learning, which could extend the impact of the PIC. Some social media users (e.g., individuals or companies) have particularly large networks of individuals they communicate with regularly, and they become trustworthy and influential distributors of information. By accessing the networks of influential online users, a PIC has potential to reach large audiences and have greater impact by coming from trusted sources.