Public engagement with science and technology

12/09/2017

To unravel how science museums can prepare citizens for reflection on research and innovation, this study evaluates a playful exhibit prototype, Opinion Lab (OL). The OL made children and parents reflect on synthetic biology (SB), supported by conversation exercises, citizen-narratives, and futuristic scenarios. We analysed 26 OL test sessions performed in NEMO science museum Amsterdam. The prototype appeared to support participants in opinion forming, counter-argument incorporation and extrapolation. Also, reflection on deeper questions such as `what is nature?' evoked understanding for alternative viewpoints. These findings show that playful exhibits, like the OL, potentially facilitate dialogue in science museums very well.

24/08/2017

CONFERENCE: Citizen Science Association Conference, Saint Paul, Minnesota, U.S.A., 17–20th May 2017

The second biennial Citizen Science Association Conference was held from the 17–20th of May 2017 in Saint Paul, Minnesota. The conference is the biggest of its kind in the world and brought together more than 1,000 delegates for hundreds of conference presentations as well as workshops, panels, screenings, a hackathon and a citizen science festival. In this paper we review the history of the conference and outline the key events leading up to the 2017 conference.

20/07/2017

Science communication is today a well-established ―although young― area of research. However, there are only a few books and papers analyzing how science communication has developed historically. Aiming to, in some way, contribute to filling this gap, JCOM organized this special issue on the History of Public Communication of Science and Technology (PCST), joining 15 contributions, from different parts of the globe. The papers published in this issue are organized in three groups, though with diffuse boundaries: geography, media, and discipline. The first group contains works that deal descriptively and critically with the development of PCST actions and either general or specific public policies for this area in specific countries. A second set of papers examines aspects of building science communication on TV or in print media. The third group of papers presents and discusses important PCST cases in specific areas of science or technology at various historical moments.

18/05/2017

How users discuss climate change online is one of the crucial questions (science) communication scholars address nowadays. This study contributes by approaching the issue through the theoretical concept of online public arenas. The diversity of topics and perceptions in the climate change discourse is explored by comparing different arenas. German journalistic articles and their reader comments as well as scientific expert blogs are analyzed by quantitative manual and automated content analysis (n=5,301). Findings demonstrate a larger diversity of topics and interpretations in arenas with low barriers to communication. Overall, climate change skepticism is rare, but mostly present in lay publics.

18/04/2017

There is a gap between the discipline of economics and the public it is supposedly about and for. This gap is reminiscent of the divide that led to movements for the public understanding of and public engagement with the natural sciences. It is a gap in knowledge, trust, and opinions, but most of all it is a gap in engagement. In this paper we ask: What do we need to think about ― and what do we need to do ― in order to bring economics and its public into closer dialogue? At stake is engaged, critical democracy. We turn to the fields of public understanding of science and science studies for our approach, finding three themes of particular relevance: understanding, expertise, and audience. We then discuss participatory budgeting (PB) as an example of fertile ground for engagement. We argue that with an economic-engagement focus, activities such as PB could be extended into the public-economics gap and provide avenues for an economic equivalent of participatory science: a form of participatory economics.

13/03/2017

van den Sanden and Vries curate reflections and insights about the shared goals, practices and processes which bring together academics and practitioners in science education and communication. The book spotlights areas of productive overlap but is just the beginning for meaningful collaboration.

22/02/2017

Englehard et al. provide a wide-ranging look at synthetic biology, from discussion of how one might classify different synthetic approaches to consideration of risk and ethical issues. The chapter on public engagement considers why synthetic biology seems to sit below the public radar.

23/01/2017

Science cafés offer a place for information and discussion for all who are interested in science and its broader implications for society. In this paper, science cafés are explored as a means of informal science dialogue in order to gain more understanding of the science-society relationship. Perspectives of visitors, organisers and moderators of science cafés were analysed. Findings show that science cafés stimulate discussion and engagement via informal learning processes. Visitors come to broaden their knowledge in an informal ambiance. Organisers and moderators hope to enhance understanding of science and confidence of people to participate in debates.

11/01/2017

Citizen science continues to grow, potentially increasing competition among projects to recruit and retain volunteers interested in participating. Using web analytics, we examined the ability of a marketing campaign to broaden project awareness, while driving engagement and retention in an online, crowdsourced project. The campaign challenged audiences to support the classification of >9,000 pairs of images. The campaign was successful due to increased engagement, but it did not increase the time participants spent classifying images. Engagement over multiple days was significantly shorter during the campaign. We provide lessons learned to improve targeted recruitment and retention of participants in online projects.

11/01/2017

This paper provides an analysis of the implementation and the outcomes of Scienza Attiva, an Italian national project for secondary school students, that makes use of deliberative democracy tools to address socio-scientific issues of great impact. The analysis has required a mixed method including surveys of students' pre- and post-project opinions, focus groups and interviews with students and teachers. The results from this evaluation study provide evidence that the project improves students' understanding of socio-scientific issues, strengthens their awareness of the importance of discussion and positively influences interactions in the classroom.

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