New paper on science cafés as tools for better understanding the science-society relationship


Science cafés have been a great tool for public engagement with S&T since many years. A new study just published on JCOM contributes to prove their value “as a means of informal science dialogue in order to gain more understanding of the science-society relationship”.

In her paper, titled “Analysing Dutch Science Cafés to better understand the science-society relationship”, Dr. Anne M. Dijkstra presents the outcomes of a study of two sets of data about science cafés: both quantitative and qualitative data on citizens, in their role as visitors of science cafés, as well as a second set of qualitative data of citizens, in their role as organisers and moderators of Dutch science cafés.

Based on the hypothesis that dialogue and participation processes contribute to strengthen the science-society relationship, which is explored in the first part of the paper through references to many studies in the field, the author explores how the science cafés can contribute to this process. Considered by participants and organizers as “places for knowledge sharing and informal learning for citizens in various roles”, science cafés reveal to also be “places where open deliberation is possible and different viewpoints can be given, as such, these processes help empower people and climb the ladder of participation”, as explained by the author.

Several papers published in JCOM have explored the potential of science cafés, such as for example the Japanese study “Using a scientific literacy cluster to determine participant attitudes in scientific events in Japan, and potential applications to improving science communication” by S. Kawamoto et al., exploring motivations that lead citizens to participate in a science café, or the paper “Synthetic biology in the Science Café: what have we learned about public engagement?”, by E.L. Navid and E.F. Einsiedel, exploring how science cafés on synthetic biology in Canada can be an “effective upstream engagement platform for discussing emerging science technologies”. Finally, the paper “Scientists' attitudes toward a dialogue with the public: a study using ‘science cafes’”, by E. Mizumachi et al., focuses on barriers and fears which young Japanese scientists face when participating in science cafés, while the study – also from Japan – “Science cafés. Cross-cultural adaptation and educational applications”, by M. Norton and K. Nohara, analyses the role of science cafés as educational tools for teaching S&T.