Practice insight


The ‘Born or Built? — Our Robotic Future’ (‘BOB?’) exhibition examines relationships between humans, robots and artificial intelligence. It encourages visitors to explore ethical and social issues surrounding these new technologies and invites visitors to post their own questions. We examine visitor responses to the exhibit “A of the Day”, which encourages visitors to engage by writing down their own question prompted by their experience in ‘BOB?’. As responses were submitted, it became apparent that the questions posed by visitors were potentially a valuable contribution to future science communication policy about robotics, and to those designing and implementing these technologies. We performed a content analysis that distilled themes in visitors' open-ended questioning that conveyed visitor knowledge and insight into what science communication about robotic technologies needs to address. Taken this way, visitors' questions form a moment of dialogue between the public and science communicators, engineers and researchers in which visitors contribute their knowledge and ideas about robotics. Such moments of dialogue are potentially valuable if the public is to be included in the development of robotics technology to build trust in robotics technology.


Despite being a critical environmental problem, soil pollution is not usually considered as a relevant issue by the general public. This disinterest derives from traditional procedures to assess soil pollution that are quite complex and costly, not considering any form of citizen involvement. Seeking to challenge this situation, the project “Nuestros Suelos” (Our Soil) aimed at designing and testing a low-cost participative soil pollution assessment toolkit. The final prototype included several participative modules, going from an assessment of the history of local soils to measuring heavy metals such as Arsenic and Copper. Tested with low-income communities in northern Chile, the toolkit was able not only to produce multiple kinds of data but also a public that started to understand and care about the issue.


This paper is the culmination of several meaning-making activities between an external researcher, PES practitioners, and social scientist researchers who considered the unique contributions that can be made through RPPs on PES (that is, research-practice partnerships on public engagement with science). Based on the experiences from three RPP projects, the group noted that the PES context may be particularly suited to RPPs, and identified the importance of working as thinking-partners who support reciprocal decision-making. Recommendations are made in support of using these approaches to advance practical knowledge-building and reduce shared frustrations about the disconnect between research and practice in PES.


Public engagement with science activities need to be extended beyond traditional learning venues (e.g., museums, schools) to increase public access. Scientists are motivated to carry out this work; however, it is difficult to scale up training to support the implementation of engagement activities in non-traditional venues. Such training would need to be applicable to different engagement contexts, while avoiding a “one size fits all” approach. We describe the guiding principles, challenges, and design choices of a training program in the United States to support scientists in designing and implementing audience-specific engagement activities in a range of non-traditional venues.


As several recent National Academies of Sciences reports have highlighted, greater science communication research is needed on 1) communicating chemistry, and 2) building research-practice partnerships to advance communication across science issues. Here we report our insights in both areas, gathered from a multi-year collaboration to advance our understanding of how to communicate about chemistry with the public. Researchers and practitioners from science museums across the U.S. partnered with academic social scientists in science communication to develop and conduct multi-strand data collections on chemistry communication and informal education. Our focus was on increasing interest in, the perceived relevance of, and self-efficacy concerning chemistry through hands-on activities and connecting chemistry to broader themes concerning everyday life and societal impacts. We outline challenges and benefits of the project that future collaborations can gain from and illustrate how our strands of work complemented each other to create a more complete picture of public perceptions of chemistry.


Podcasts are gaining traction in academic practice and debates. This article reflects on the experience of “The Sources of the Nile”, a podcast on media, science, and water diplomacy. By presenting the podcast structure and production process, we sketch a “podcast pathway” that might serve as a guide for others. We share the results of a survey conducted among our listeners and we review the episodes discussing what we learned on distributions of voice, knowledge and water in the Nile basin. We conclude by reflecting on the connection between the technical production of the podcast and the type of knowledge that it generates, and by pointing at the importance of placing the podcast within a broader community of interests and practice.


Stories are fundamental to human history, culture and development. Immersive theatre has created a landscape where participants have agency within stories, and within this landscape the concept of narrative transportation provides a framework where change within stories creates change in real life. “Space Plague” is a co-designed, fully immersive theatrical experience for young people and families about a fictional pandemic. It was developed using community-based participatory action research (CBPAR) employing a novel model for engaging underserved and under-represented audiences, “SCENE”. Results confirmed that indications of narrative transportation effects were achieved, demonstrating enhanced learning and understanding alongside changing attitudes and indicated positive change when negotiating the COVID-19 crisis.


This article is about manga-based messaging for risk communication on COVID-19, describing the practice of collaboration between a group of experts and a popular manga artist. Collaborative storytelling through popular manga provides an effective discussion platform for diverse experts in various specialties, ages, and genders to discuss a topic in a short time. These “stories” can integrate social meaning, legitimacy, and a local context into scientific messages. They also provide the public with a deeper understanding of the messages through the characters and their “real-life” situations, as long as the messages remain consistent with the worldview of the original work.


A global crisis such as the COVID-19 pandemic that started in early 2020 poses significant challenges for how research is conducted and communicated. We present four case studies from the perspective of an interdisciplinary research institution that switched to “corona-mode” during the first two months of the crisis, focussing all its capacities on COVID-19-related issues, communicating to the public directly and via media, as well as actively advising the national government. The case studies highlight the challenges posed by the increased time pressure, high demand for transparency, and communication of complexity and uncertainty. The article gives insights into how these challenges were addressed in our research institution and how science communication in general can be managed during a crisis.


Political, economic and social actors have begun to implement the 17 SDGs (UN 2030 Agenda) to build a desirable future for everyone. To reach this goal, a mix of systemic alteration and individual change is needed. “Free Bright Conversations” is a dialogue-based science communication event developed at MUSE-Science Museum in Trento that focuses on people's engagement with sustainable development. The paper describes the format and provides an evaluation based on preliminary data collected on two occasions. The authors conclude that participatory science communication furthers involvement with our common, sustainable future.


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