Public engagement with science and technology


Advances in 21st century genetic technologies offer new directions for addressing public health and environmental challenges, yet raise important social and ethical questions. Though the need for inclusive deliberation is widely recognized, institutionalized risk definitions, regulation standards, and imaginations of publics pose obstacles to democratic participation and engagement. This paper traces how the problematic precedents set by the 1975 Asilomar Conference emerge in contemporary discussions on CRISPR, and draws from a recent controversy surrounding field trial releases of genetically modified mosquitoes to explicate the ways in which these precedents undermine efforts to engage publics in decisions at the science-policy interface.


Science museums are missing an opportunity to promote informal education, scientific literacy, public engagement and public visibility of scientists outside of museum walls via Instagram. With an analysis of 1,073 Instagram posts, we show that museums are using Instagram as a promotional broadcasting tool, with a focus on end results of collections and curation work over communication of museum-led discovery and science as a process. We suggest that science museums create more Instagram posts that offer educational information and visibility of exhibit creation and museum researchers' work behind the scenes.


The making and tinkering movement has become increasingly mainstream over the past decade, pioneered in part through the popularity of magazines like `Make', events such as Maker Faire and DIY websites including `Instructables'. Science centres and museums have been developing their own ideas, notably the Tinkering Studio at the Exploratorium. In this commentary piece, we reflect on why this movement has a strong appeal for the Life Science Centre in Newcastle upon Tyne and why we are in the process of developing a new making and tinkering space to help us enact our centre's vision to `Enrich lives through science'.


Over the past decade, science festival expos have emerged as popular opportunities for practicing scientists to engage in education outreach with public audiences. In this paper, a partial proportional odds model was used to analyze 5,498 surveys collected from attendees at 14 science expos around the United States. Respondents who report that they interacted with a scientist rated their experiences more positively than those who reported no such interaction on five categories: overall experience, learning, inspiration, fun, and awareness of STEM careers. The results indicate that scientists can positively affect audience perception of their experience at these large-scale public events.


Young people's decisions to study post-compulsory science are strongly influenced by the attitude of their parents, but many families, especially those from deprived backgrounds, see science as ‘narrow’ and ‘not for us’. We asked whether family attendance at a science festival — a growing but under-studied activity — could shift attitudes. Our mixed-methods study found parents from more deprived areas were disproportionately likely to say attendance had improved their perception of science. Parents from the most deprived areas were significantly more likely to feel increased positivity about their children pursuing science careers. Participants also reported learning about the breadth of careers in science. However we found no evidence that attendance boosted informal science activity in low-SES families.


Although hundreds of citizen science applications exist, there is lack of detailed analysis of volunteers' needs and requirements, common usability mistakes and the kinds of user experiences that citizen science applications generate. Due to the limited number of studies that reflect on these issues, it is not always possible to develop interactions that are beneficial and enjoyable. In this paper we perform a systematic literature review to identify relevant articles which discuss user issues in environmental digital citizen science and we develop a set of design guidelines, which we evaluate using cooperative evaluation. The proposed research can assist scientists and practitioners with the design and development of easy to use citizen science applications and sets the basis to inform future Human-Computer Interaction research in the context of citizen science.


In citizen science, user-centred development is often emphasised for its potential to involve participants in the development of technology. We describe the development process of the mobile app “Naturblick” as an example of a user-centred design in citizen science and discuss digital user feedback with regard to the users' involvement. We have identified three types of digital user feedback using qualitative content analysis: general user feedback, contributory user feedback and co-creational user feedback. The results indicate that digital user feedback can link UCD techniques with more participatory design approaches.


Effective classification of large datasets is a ubiquitous challenge across multiple knowledge domains. One solution gaining in popularity is to perform distributed data analysis via online citizen science platforms, such as the Zooniverse. The resulting growth in project numbers is increasing the need to improve understanding of the volunteer experience; as the sustainability of citizen science is dependent on our ability to design for engagement and usability. Here, we examine volunteer interaction with 63 projects, representing the most comprehensive collection of online citizen science project data gathered to date. Together, this analysis demonstrates how subtle project design changes can influence many facets of volunteer interaction, including when and how much volunteers interact, and, importantly, who participates. Our findings highlight the tension between designing for social good and broad community engagement, versus optimizing for scientific and analytical efficiency.


Online citizen science platforms increasingly provide types of infrastructural support previously only available to organisationally-based professional scientists. Other practices, such as creative arts, also exploit the freedom and accessibility afforded by the World Wide Web to shift the professional-amateur relationship. This paper compares communities from these two areas to show that disparate practices can learn from each other to better understand their users and their technology needs. Three major areas are discussed: mutual acknowledgement, infrastructural support, and platform specialisation. We discuss the advantages and disadvantages of differing practices, and lessons that can be learnt for online citizen science platforms.


The 15th international conference of the Public Communication of Science and Technology network took place from April 4–6, 2018. Given its location in Dunedin, New Zealand/Ōtepoti, Aotearoa, it was a natural venue for two sessions on communicating science across cultures.


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