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Reporting on the stakeholder consultation and how the results were used

Public consultations are an essential part of your IA work. They also require significant time and effort on the part of stakeholders. It is therefore essential that you present clearly the results of the consultation in your IA. You should provide details of how, who and on what you consulted. You should present the different positions expressed and how you have taken them into account. If you have used the consultation to gather factual data, you should indicate what you requested, what you received, and how you used it.
When carrying out the consultation and using the information it produces, you should be aware of a number of pitfalls that may introduce a bias into the results. It is important to distinguish evidence from opinions. Not all interest groups are equally able to take part in consultations or express their views with the same force. For this reason, an open consultation is unlikely to provide a fully representative picture of opinions. You may need, therefore, to make specific efforts to ensure that all relevant stakeholders are both aware of and able to contribute to the consultation. You should also be careful in drawing conclusions if there are only a small number of responses and they come from a narrow range of interests.
While you should be careful, however, not to be unduly influenced by the views of one particular group, no matter how professionally these have been presented, you should also give a response its due weight if it represents a large number of citizens or stakeholders.
When you use a consultation to gather data, you should verify carefully that the method you use is correct and appropriate, and try to validate the robustness of the results. Peer-reviewing, benchmarking with other studies and sensitivity analysis can significantly enhance the quality of data.

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