Facilitating the debate on the scientific and technological development

How to facilitate discussions on controversial issues and scientific applications through science cafés, discussions games and other participatory procedures

17 - 21 October 2016, Adriatico Guesthouse, ICTP (Trieste)



Introduction to the course
Science is at the centre of many controversial challenges for the future. Research fields that are potentially controversial include for example personalized medicine, synthetic biology, climate change, energy transition, nanotechnology. At the same time, modern democracies are increasingly asking a participatory attitude from their citizens, and the dialogue between science and society is part of this new active citizenship.
Science centres, festivals, museums and science outreach activities are responding to this trend, organising activities that tackle controversial issues, involving the public participation at various levels. These include debates, science cafés, discussion games, scenario workshops, participatory exhibits, etc. and range from a simple expression of one's opinion, to participation in decision-making, or even citizen science activities involving the public in the production of scientific knowledge.
The course aims to equip organisers of science communication activities, floor explainers, facilitators, and scientists with techniques and competences that allow them to successfully run these type of activities, take into account the public views while respecting scientific knowledge, and ensuring a constructive outcome for the benefit of science and society. The course will present the settings and the materials, so to best assist participants in using existing formats or designing new ones. It will include a theoretical background and practical workshops leading to the development of concrete programmes.

The course will last 5 days and include theoretical presentations, practical workshops and the presentation of international best practices. Course leaders and facilitators are professionals with an international experience in the field and in training. Keynote speakers will be leading professionals in field. Peer-to-peer learning will also be facilitated since it is expected attendees will come from different parts of the world and have interesting and varied profiles.

Museums explainers, festivals guides, researchers involved in outreach activities, teachers and other educators.

Course overview

Day 1 - Course introduction
Why communicating science?
Motivation, interests, fears and expectations in the public
In direct contact with the public: how to facilitate

Day 2 - Controversial issues, stakeholders and participatory procedures
Science and society: engagement participation and governance
Identifying controversial issues
Play Decide: a case study
Participants’ project: Identifying stakeholders

Day 3 - How to reach different audiences
Children, teenagers and their right to be listened
How to listening the children
Reaching "unusual" audiences
Science and issues of social inclusion
Participants’ project: Identifying objectives

Day 4 - Evaluation and participatory design
Public consultations and citizen science
Getting to know our audiences, including their voices, evaluating our projects
Participants project: Identifying formats for activities
Participants project: Evaluating your projects

Day 5 - Participants’ project and course conclusion
Participants’ project: creation of materials
Participants’ projects: test
Session on demand
1-1 problem solving
Course evaluation


Andrea Bandelli, CEO, Science Gallery International, Dublin (Republic of Ireland)
Simona Cerrato, Science for children and outreach activities SISSA Medialab, Trieste (Italy)
Bojan Markicevic, Science Communication Consultant, Zagreb (Croatia)
Matteo Merzagora, Traces, Paris (France)
Paola Rodari, Project Manager, SISSA Medialab, Trieste (Italy)
Barbara Streicher, Executive Manager of the association ScienceCenter-Netzwerk, Vienna (Austria)


Paola Rodari, JCOM Masterclasses Coordinator 
Gordon Rankmore, JCOM Masterclasses Programme Advisor