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Public Health Genomics. 2012;15(2):82-91. doi: 10.1159/000334104. Epub 2011 Dec 14.

An Australian approach to the policy translation of deliberated citizen perspectives on biobanking.

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  • 1Office of Population Health Genomics, Department of Health, Curtin University of Technology, Perth, WA, Australia.



Deliberative public engagement is recommended for policy development in contested ethical areas. Scholars provide little guidance on how deliberative outputs can be translated to policy. This paper describes the processes we undertook to design a deliberative public forum for citizens to develop recommendations on biobanking that were adopted as health policy.


The 4-day forum, held in 2008 in Perth, Western Australia, was designed in collaboration with academic experts. Deliberant recommendations were recorded in a formal report presented to policy-makers. Deliberations were audio-taped and transcribed. Translation involved transcript analyses, comparison of recommendations to other stakeholder views and post-forum consultations.


Sixteen citizens made recommendations on ethical, legal and social issues related to biobanking. Most recommendations were translated into biobanking guidelines, with which Western Australia government health agencies must comply. The value of deliberative public participation in policy-making was most evident when trade-offs in competing interests, hopes and concerns were required. Translation issues included the impact of a small number of participants with limited socio-demographic diversity on procedural and policy legitimacy.


Assessing the sufficiency of diversity in citizen representation was central to the deliberation-to-translation process. Institutional context facilitated the uptake of deliberation and translation processes. The use of these processes influenced policy substance and credibility among stakeholders and contributed to the state government directive that policy compliance be mandatory. We urge others to publish deliberation-to-translation processes so that best-practices may be identified.

Copyright © 2011 S. Karger AG, Basel.

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