ILC NewsLine
Lessons in Public Participation: ILC in the Neighborhood
Doug Sarno
Doug Sarno of The Perspectives Group

Approximately one year from now, the Global Design Effort expects to request proposals on a world-wide basis for siting the International Linear Collider. Although a long road remains to selecting a site for the ILC, facilitator Doug Sarno will tell you it is never too early to start public participation. In anticipation of submitting a proposal to host the ILC, Fermilab started discussions with local citizens, and two years ago, they established a Community Task Force on Public Participation. Ranging from a young high school student to a local mayor, the 22-member group developed a set of mutual expectations for how Fermilab will interact with the community on issues that effect them both. As the site selection for the ILC moves forward, the role of the Community Task Force will become increasingly important and perhaps even serve as a model on public participation for other regions involved in the global project.

Last Wednesday, Sarno of the Perspectives Group, a consulting firm that guided the Community Task Force efforts, shared some wisdom about public participation and the ILC with scientists and engineers at Fermilab. “Public participation is any process that seeks to understand what the public values and uses this to improve decision-making,” he said. “We want the community to be as excited about the ILC as we are so that there is a sense of ownership and understanding for the project.”

Sarno provided a list of ways to approach public participation. He emphasized the importance of attitude - believe that the public can contribute valuable feedback for a large-scale project such as the ILC. “We can’t hand over all decision making to the public, but we can ask them to weigh in on policy positions related to science,” he said. “You need to set clear goals to make it clear that we are not asking if we should build the ILC here. Determine where the opportunity is for public participation. It is often not about what will happen but how it happens.”

Last November, a subcommittee of the Community Task Force met with Fermilab scientists and civil engineers to discuss community involvement in the siting of the ILC. (See Fermilab Today, 17 November 2005 and 3 November 2005)The subcommittee developed a list of siting criteria, focusing on safety, construction (including trucks and noise pollution), and the appearance of the above-ground facilities. Fermilab plans to meet with the subcommittee again this spring to continue discussions.

"This is relationship-building," Sarno said. "You are all on a journey to understanding the ILC. We have to bring the public with us."

-- Elizabeth Clements