598   Roundtable discussion

Participatory science communication changing publics

Participatory science communication happens when scientists are one of the groups participating on a relatively equal basis with various publics, including policymakers, citizens, school children, farmers, technologists and industry.  The aim of such participatory science communication is often to address an issue or societal problem.

In the early 2000s, a new participatory model of science communication gained traction in the scholarly literature. The participatory model appealed to scholars who theorised the democratisation of science as a solution to engaging publics in jointly tackling societal issues of concern. For controversial scientific issues, like climate change, public participation was argued to be beneficial for critically reviewing research, solving problems or supporting behaviour and policy changes. However, participatory science communication can be as much about the process of diverse publics engaging with each other as the outcomes.

This Roundtable session will begin with a short overview of specific but diverse cases of participatory science communication including forensic science; participation of scientists and policymakers in supporting science communicators; livestock production groups involving multiple stakeholders; and debate on nuclear power. There will then be a moderated discussion about our various perceptions and definitions of 'participatory science communication'; what works or not with participatory science communication; how publics and scientists can be changed by the process of participation; and how scholars and practitioners can support more participatory science communication programs. The session will then be opened to questions and discussion with the audience.

Author: Jennifer Metcalfe
Econnect Communication , Australia

Speaker: Heather Doran
Leverhulme Research Centre for Forensic Science, University of Dundee, United Kingdom

The Leverhulme Research Centre for Forensic Science has been integrating participatory science communication in a number of different ways, these have included involving stakeholders and the public in the planning, and gathering and interpreting the data. There are a number of examples of how the public, school groups, teachers and stakeholders have become involved in this process through projects that aim to enhance the robustness of evidence used in the justice system. In addition to the focus on scientific research, a diverse set of stakeholders have also been involved in the communication of science and the processes of involvement have embedded features to aid scientific exploration and learning. Examples will be used to outline how such participation is achieved, along with some successes and challenges.

Speaker: Maja Horst
University of Copenhagen, Denmark

At science communication events, it is not uncommon to see small entourages of university leaders, policy-makers and leading scientists, who have come to demonstrate their support for the cause and appreciation of the science communicators' hard work. Often they participate in the exhibits in the same way as members of publics are expected to, but since the visit usually serves the above strategic objectives, it can simultaneously be experienced as a performance at multiple layers. This paper focuses on the many ways in which such performances can have effects. They are important as approval, appreciation and encouragement for people making the science communication and outreach events. This adds a symbolic dimension, because the VIP-entourages also add an element of institutional commitment to such activities. However, such performance can be a double-edged sword, if science communicators feel that the performance is mere gloss from an otherwise disinterested organisation. In addition, it allows these high-power people to be reminded that they are also citizens themselves and to let them assume that role for a while. It can also let them observe other visitors to the event and her

Speaker: Jennifer Manyweathers
Charles Sturt University, Australia

Bringing multiple stakeholder together, as equal partners to examine complex problems and co-create innovative solutions…too good to be true? To improve Australia's preparedness for a foot and mouth disease (FMD) outbreak, researchers from Commonwealth Scientific & Industrial Research Organisation (CSIRO), Charles Sturt University, and the Australian Bureau of Agricultural Resource Economics and Sciences are using just such an approach - Agricultural Innovation Systems (AIS). AIS has the capacity to bring systems change by creating space for shared perspective and the co-creation of solutions by multiple stakeholders. Bringing together livestock producers, veterinarians, livestock agents, abattoir/knackery representatives, social scientists, etc., the FMD ready project is tackling complex issues around biosecurity, surveillance, animal production and trusting relationships, one discussion at a time.

Speaker: Michiel van Oudheusden
University of Cambridge, Belgium

European nuclear policy and research programs increasingly emphasize the importance of initiating 'dialogue' with citizens and 'public participation' in nuclear research and development. I consider how these formally-sanctioned appeals to participatory science communication are received and enacted in nuclear R&D spaces. I illustrate how colleagues (nuclear scientists, engineers, safety personnel) increasingly show awareness of the challenges of publicly communicating science, while continuing to view the public as ignorant of science. Whereas this deficit view has been widely criticized by social scientists studying the public communication of science, I argue that it can facilitate the 'opening up' of R&D processes to wider publics and considerations when it is clearly differentiated from contending science communication models and practices. Social scientists can help to make differentiation of this kind instructive and potentially transformative for all stakeholders, not by insisting on symmetrical, two-way dialogue between them but by urging them to articulate and refine their views in confrontation with competing problem definitions, stakes, and evidence.

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