The role of science centres and museums in the dialogue between science and society

In a meta-analysis carried out in 2002, the two main associations of science centres and museums (ASTC, mainly US-centered, and ECSITE, mainly European) gathered all studies analysing the impact of science centres and museums on their local communities1. Four types of impact were identified: personal, social, political and economical. It was noticed that the vast majority of studies concentrated on the personal impact (that is, learning outcome, visitor satisfaction, etc.), while the latter three were largely neglected. The very fact of pointing this out, and many recent experiences - some of which are included in this commentary - show that there is now a shift of attention.