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E-consultation research at Queen's University Belfast

The overall research strategy of the university is to do work of national and international quality. On getting the 2001 RAE results, Vice-Chancellor George Bain said: These results mean that Northern Ireland now has a broadly-based, research-led university of international quality. In the space of less than a decade, Queen's has transformed its research profile and regained its place at the cutting edge of academic endeavour in the UK.

Within that general strategy, the university has identified some particular areas of research interest. In 2001 the Institute of Governance, Public Policy and Social Research was established with an award in excess of £5 million from the Government's Support Programme for University Research. Its creation reflects the recognition that the ways in which public policy is conceived and delivered are changing rapidly in the face of social, economic and political developments, such as globalisation, devolution, privatisation and Europeanisation. All societies, including that of Northern Ireland, must face the challenge of adapting to these changing patterns of governance in order to guarantee the making of effective public policy. Its mission is to make a significant contribution to both the academic reputation of the University and the future of Northern Ireland through interdisciplinary work which impacts on issues of governance, public policy and social research at all levels from the local to the global.

A number of social science researchers at QUB have been working in the specific area of e-governance. By e-governance we mean not just the e-government approach of treating citizens as consumers of government services, but the application of electronic communications technologies to support processes of deliberative e-democracy.

Dr. David Newman, of the School of Management and Economics, has a Ph.D. in Appropriate Technology for the Third World. At Queen’s he has researched groupware use in co-operative learning, critical thinking in online and face-to-face discussions, and the use of the Internet by community groups. In 1997 he put Peter Emerson’s consensus voting system, the preferendum, on to the WWW, and presented this socio-technical solution to the first international conference on voting, rating and annotation on the Internet. He has technical expertise on e-consultation software and systems. He is currently part of the ADD-WIJZER e-government project consortium, funded by the EU.

Prof. John Morison, of the School of Law, has written extensively on public law, human rights, and deliberative democracy, and joined with Dr. Newman to investigate e-democracy and e-consultation. Prof. Morison is on the management committee of the Institute of Governance, Public Policy and Social Research at Queen’s. They are currently collaborating with Prof. Philip Leith on an eContent project evaluating systems to make legal information on planning and the environment available to non-lawyers over the Internet.

Particularly relevant publications include:

  1. John Morison and David R. Newman (2001) "On-line Citizenship: Consultation and Participation in New Labour’s Britain and Beyond". Int. Rev. of Law, Computers & Technology, 15(2), 171-194
  2. John Morison (Spring 2003) "Online government and e-constitutionalism". Public Law, p. 14-23.
  3. John Morison and K. McEvoy (2003 in press) "Beyond the Constitutional Moment: Law, Transition and Peacemaking in Northern Ireland", Fordham International Law Review.
  4. John Morison, Anthony and Meehan (2002) "Editorial" in "Re-Configuring Governance: Politics, Process and Policy" Special Issue of the Northern Ireland Legal Quarterly, 53(4), i-iv.
  5. John Morison (2001) "Democracy, Governance and Governmentality: Civic Public Space and Constitutional Renewal in Northern Ireland". Oxford Journal of Legal Studies, 21, 287-310.
  6. John Morison (2003 in press) "Modernising Government and the e-government revolution: technologies of government and technologies of democracy" in P. Leyland and N. Bamforth (eds.) The Multi-Layered Constitution. Oxford: Hart Publishing.
  7. John Morison (2002) "On-line government and e-democracy: A new framework for governance in Europe?" in The Constitutional Revision in Today’s Europe. Eds. G. Amato, G. Braibant and E. Venizelos. Esperia/Bruylant. pp. 499-530.
  8. John Morison (2001) "Democracy, Governance and Governmentality: the Role of Voluntary Sector in the Democratic Renewal of Northern Ireland". In Human Rights, Equality and Democratic Renewal in Northern Ireland. Ed. C. Harvey. Oxford: Hart Publishing, pp. 249-276.
  9. John Morison (2002) E-Government: OFMDFM Review of Public Administration Research Briefing Paper. Belfast: OFMDFM. 32pp. (Also available via
  10. Newman, D. R. (Sept. 1999) "Electronic Support For Consensus Democracy Among Conflicting Communities". In Andrew Funston (Ed.) Community Networking '99 (29 Sept.-1 Oct. 1999) Ballarat, Vic., Australia.
  11. Newman, D. R., & Emerson, P. J. (1997) "The on-line preferendum: a tool for voting, conflict resolution and decision-making." In R. Alton-Scheidl, R. Schmutzer, P. P. Sint, & G. Tschertau (Eds.), Voting, Rating, Annotation–Web4Groups and other projects: approaches and first experiences (OCG-Bd.104, pp. 131-46). Vienna-Munich: R. Oldenbourg and Austrian Academy of Sciences.
  12. Talbot, Christian and D. R. Newman (Dec. 1998) Beyond Access and Awareness: evaluating electronic community networks. London: British Library. Research and Innovation Report 149.