The Internet, Policy & Politics Conferences

Oxford Internet Institute, University of Oxford

Bicquelet: Analysing e-consultations with the help of Computer Assistance

This paper has been published as: Aude Bicquelet and Albert Weale (2010) Coping with the Cornucopia: Can Text Mining Help Handle the Data Deluge in Public Policy Analysis? Policy and Internet 3 (4).


Bicquelet, A., London School of Economics (LSE)


The advent of New Information Communication Technologies (NICTs) such as Internet has created a plethora of opportunities for the participation of citizens in policymaking. In the United-Kingdom, for instance, this trend has become apparent at the national, and at the local level, in domain as diverse as Education, the Environment and Health Care issues. If public opinion is now revered, perhaps more than ever, devices such as online consultations and electronic surveys have rendered the appeal to the people seemingly easier. However, although there is now a large body of literature devoted to commentating and analysing ways in which politicians ought to be involved in listening and responding to public participation in decision-making, issues pertaining to the actual impracticalities of such exercises have largely remained unexplored. This is a significant absence because an important problem that arises from involving the public in decision-making exercises through large-scale electronic participatory devices is the amount of textual data generated by the responses. This paper assesses the potential benefits and shortcomings of using Text Mining methods for the analysis of large scale consultations submitted via Internet. To this end, the paper reports on the application of computer-aided text analysis to a public consultation organised by the National Institute for Health and Clinical Excellence (NICE) on ‘End of Life Medicines’, in November 2008.