Wed Jul 12th, 2006 at 07:08:11 AM EST
Last month Migeru called our attention (EU Consultations: failing to have our voice heard?) to consultations organized by the EU, some of them (not enough) open to the general public, on a variety of policy questions.
Whether the EU pays any attention to consultation submissions is a moot point. There are folks who'll say: "No way!", and I admit I'm sceptical myself. In fact we don't know if we're contributing to a policy debate (supposing there is one). But what consultations can make us do, is produce focussed work on a policy topic. We have to find and review available data, select what seems dependable and useful, collate it, discuss our fundamental approach in the light of it, (agree or disagree), and build policy proposals. This seems worthwhile to me.
We could do the same thing by producing position papers. Since we are not full-time professionals, however, these run the risk of remaining for a long time at project stage and perhaps never getting done -- a deadline can be a useful thing. And, from a consultation text, (and the work done in producing it), a position paper may be drawn.
On Monday we submitted our first consultation offering, on biofuels. That was satisfying, because we did what we set out to do, but it was all the same a rush job. With a little more time, we could no doubt have produced a more fully-argued and data-backed text.
Below I set out my take on the phases we need to go through in working on a consultation submission.
HowYouFeel = (pick an integer between 1 and 10; 1 = fatigued, 10 = full of beans)
TotallyShaggedOut = 0
Identify the consultation to work on. It has to be in a policy area that seems important to us, interests us, and in which some of us at least may have some knowledge. There has to be enough time to work on it. In the light of the Biofuels experience, I'd say one month is a minimum.
As Migeru pointed out in his above-linked diary, the EU site doesn't make it easy to check out the full list of consultations : "to get the complete list one has to go to the consultation pages relating to 30 different policy areas of the EU". However, you can sign up for a mailing list which will inform you of new discussions and consultations. I have signed up. Anyone else is free to do so. Identifying a consultation is an individual initiative, go to Phase Two.
(Flagged: The consultation on "The Green Paper on a European Strategy for Sustainable, Competitive and Secure Energy", deadline 24/09/2006, must surely be one for us?)
Diary 1 to gather a base group interested in working on the consultation. If there's a positive response, distribute tasks (on a voluntary basis, natch) from the start, rather than leave it in the air who will work on what aspect. One person should be co-ordinator, unless otherwise agreed.
The first job is to identify resources (including ET resources). Open a Wiki page where links can be put up and suggestions made (given that Diary 1 will disappear in a few days). I suggest a distinction be made, in terms of subject matter, between general and specific resources. The whole group should look at general resources. Those who have chosen a specific aspect to work on will also look at resources associated with that aspect.
Diary 2 should consist of summaries of reading, data, thinking. The relative value of different resources and sources should be discussed. The best data sources should be chosen, (not in a prescriptive way, but to provide a common basis), as should (if applicable) the units of measure work should be presented in.
At this stage writers of draft material should be chosen : either one writer, or more, each taking on writing a specific part (certain questions in the consultation document, for example).
Diary 3 will work on first draft. This will probably (if the Biofuels work is anything to go by) involve discussion on ideas and how best to present them, but also intense hashing out of data and calculations. It would be best to do this a fortnight to ten days before deadline, so there's a week left for clear thinking on final drafting.
Diary 4 sets out the final draft for last-minute checking and editing.
TotallyShaggedOut = TotallyShaggedOut + 1
while HowYouFeel > TotallyShaggedOut
Please pick holes, protest, throw tomatoes.
PS : I'll shortly add another diary about discussions that arose during the Toulouse ET meet last month, concerning methods of working together on ET and associated structures.
(The four diaries in the Biofuels collaboration:
Biofuels Consultation (Part I) Is the objective of promoting biofuels valid? ;
Biofuels, Petro-fuels = Liquid Fuels (Part One) ;
Biofuels & Petro-fuels = Liquid Fuels (Part Two) ;
Biofuels Consultation )