Public engagement with science and technology


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.


In November 2016, within an Environmental studies course at the University of Venice, students carried out an experiment aimed at collecting scenarios of the Venetian coast's future starting from lessons learnt during the episode of storm surge 50 years ago (Aqua Granda ‘flood’). The students built scenarios able to anticipate the effect of sea level rise on coastal areas in Venice, based not only on scientific input but also on a methodology called “Futurescape city Tours” (FCT) involving inhabitants of the barrier islands of Lido and Pellestrina. This paper will explore three main questions: (i) Can participatory and experiential methodologies, such as FCT help students behave in an anticipatory and inclusive way in their future professional activities? (ii) Can we talk about post-normal science teaching? — i.e. one that acknowledges and works with science and other knowledges to address societal issues? (iii) Can such an approach challenge students thinking in relation to knowledge hierarchies?


This paper is a reflective account of a public participation project the authors conducted in Japan in 2012–2015, as part of the central government's initiative for evidence-based policy-making. The reflection focusses on three key aspects of the project: setting a precedent of involving public participation in policy-making; embedding an official mechanism for public participation in policy-making process; and raising policy practitioners' awareness of public participation. We also discuss why we think engaging with policy practitioners, while problematic in various ways, is and will continue to be important in promoting institutionalised practice of public participation.


The National Center for Science Education’s Science Booster Club
Program piloted a no-conflict approach to free, informal science activities
focused on climate change or evolution, holding 64 community events at
two sites over the course of 15 months, engaging with more than 70,000
participants. In the participating communities science literacy increased
over time as did community engagement as measured by local financial
support, requests for programming, and event attendance.


Mediators engage in peer-to-peer conversations with young adults visiting the art and science exhibitions at Science Gallery Dublin. Previous evaluation and anecdotal reports show that the interdisciplinary nature of these conversations fosters self-confidence and interest in academic careers. We used the Most Significant Change methodology to evaluate if working as a Mediator has an impact beyond these domains. The results show that civic engagement, interest in social justice and emotional empathy are domains of significant personal change strongly associated with the development of self-confidence and interpersonal skills.


The characteristics of interaction and dialogue implicit in the Web 2.0 have given rise to a new scenario in the relationship between science and society. The aim of this paper is the development of an evaluation tool scientifically validated by the Delphi method that permits the study of Internet usage and its effectiveness for encouraging public engagement in the scientific process. Thirty four indicators have been identified, structured into 6 interrelated criteria conceived for compiling data that help to explain the role of the Internet in favouring public engagement in science.


If Truth Be Told is a collection of essays on the politics of public ethnography and focuses on seasoned anthropologists' reflexive and critical engagement with public responses to their monographs. Fassin's primary purpose is to provide an ethnography of publicization. The book illuminates how public responses reflect and are affected by hegemonic sociopolitical realities and sociocultural practices and impact on the life and work of anthropologists. Of special interest is to what effect contributors take up different roles such as the role of expert to advocate for a more nuanced, non-hegemonic and contextualized understanding of marginalized people or specific groups.


Visual narratives, such as comics and animations, are becoming increasingly popular as a tool for science education and communication. Combining the benefits of visualization with powerful metaphors and character-driven narratives, comics have the potential to make scientific subjects more accessible and engaging for a wider audience. While many authors have experimented with this medium, empirical research on the effects of visual narratives in science communication remains scarce. This review summarizes the available evidence across disciplines, highlighting the cognitive mechanisms that may underlie the effects of visual narratives.


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