Citizens' juries have developed as a form of participatory research that seeks to legitimise non-expert knowledge. As with a legal trial, a citizens' jury assumes that if a group of people are presented with evidence, they can evaluate this and draw conclusions that are representative of the wider public.
- A jury is drawn from the wider population; the methods by which the jury are selected should be transparent.
- The jury considers evidence and questions 'witnesses' who are usually chosen for their expertise in the area under consideration.
- The jury is expected to draw conclusions about the topic under discussion, which may reflect a diversity of opinion within the jury itself.
Although citizens' juries can take a variety of forms, their essential characteristics are:
- The jury has time to deliberate over the evidence and is able to question the witnesses.
- The jury must also come to some conclusions about the topic under scrutiny.
- A neutral facilitator may provide assistance to the jury.
A key issue with citizens' juries is the time commitment required from jurors, who are typically asked to consider 30-50 hours of evidence.