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eParticipation in Policy-making: the research and the challenges

Abstract: When considering the current status of eParticipation research there are wide variations across Europe and the future direction and scope of the research agenda is not well defined. This paper considers the results of two, relatively recent, studies that highlighted the issues facing real-world eParticipation in order to provide an indication of future research direction. Five overarching research themes are defined. The first theme abstracted from the studies is the social complexity that eParticipation faces. Citizens have different needs and preferences in relation to engagement and there is a need for eParticipation approaches which reflect these differences. Secondly, there is the need to understand how to ensure cohesion across processes and across government boundaries enabling integration and responsiveness. Thirdly, more consideration of how to select tools and methods for specific eParticipation contexts is required. The fourth theme relates to interactivity and scalability, therefore a task for future research is to explore relevant interactive interfaces to support evidence-based decision-making and navigation through evolving, large-scale information sources. The final theme considers the need for analysis and evaluation, research strategies are required to help us understand how to evaluate and better understand the impact and potential of eParticipation.