Geneforum is a nonprofit affiliate of the Portland State University Foundation created in 1998 to “promote dialogue at the intersection of genetics, ethics, and public values.” The mission of the organization is to ensure that the decisions about genetic research and biotechnology are informed by public values,” where ‘public values” means commonly accepted measurements of good public policy and human rights such as fairness, justice, equality, freedom, opportunity and security.
Geneforum’s strategies for accomplishing its mission are similar to and extensions of the widely respected and extensively field-tested model of public engagement built by Oregon Health Decisions in the 1980s by founders, Ralph Crawshaw, M.D. and Geneforum co-founder, Michael Garland, D.Sc.Rel. In the words of Michael Garland, “We follow a rational model in our citizen deliberations and in front of policy makers.”
The following core beliefs guide Geneforum’s activities:
- The health of a democratic society depends on citizen participation in the development of public policies.
- Policy decisions will result in better outcomes if they are grounded in both public values and scientific knowledge.
- Informed dialogue leads to better understanding, consensus building and a more stable environment for science, medicine, and healthcare.
The Geneforum Model
Public Education: To increase the capacity of citizens to understand the impact and relevance of genetics to their lives. Scientific facts are the foundation by which Geneforum explains and conveys these issues to the general public.
Public Dialogue: To increase public participation. Geneforum promotes dialogue with the public using techniques that include an interactive Web site, partnerships with the media, public forums, community presentations, academic partnerships, and research. As a result, citizens are better able to understand, influence public policy and make informed decisions about the complex social and ethical dimensions surrounding genetic research and biotechnology.
Public Consultation: To inform key stakeholders through the measurement and monitoring of public values. Using its online and offline resources, Geneforum obtains and transmits values held by the public to policy makers, scientists, and healthcare practitioners.