Science and technology have not only pervaded our daily lives through the many technological products and services whose comfort we enjoy, but they have also taken centre-stage in many of today’s social and political debates, especially in the context of new technologies such as biotechnology, nanotechnology and converging technologies and environmental risks (climate change, nuclear energy, etc.). In offering not only many potential benefits to health, quality of life or economic development, scientific and technological developments simultaneously confront us with tremendous democratic challenges, as they introduce known and unknown risks to health, the environment and social justice.

To adequately address these democratic challenges, it is imperative to investigate whether and to what extent science communication processes and practices contribute to facilitating or impeding democratic debate and democratic citizenship with regards to technoenvironmental controversies. The aim of this paper is to put forward a new perspective in the field of science communication which allows for evaluation of science communication processes and practices in this light. The first section elaborates on the main components of this perspective, before arguing in a following section why the conventional approaches to science communication are incongruent with this perspective. This paper concludes by discussing its implications for designing and evaluating future science communication processes and practices.

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Public Communication of Science and Technology

 

Science communication and democratic debate
Friends or foes?

Pieter Maeseele   University of Antwerp, Belgium

Science and technology have not only pervaded our daily lives through the many technological products and services whose comfort we enjoy, but they have also taken centre-stage in many of today’s social and political debates, especially in the context of new technologies such as biotechnology, nanotechnology and converging technologies and environmental risks (climate change, nuclear energy, etc.). In offering not only many potential benefits to health, quality of life or economic development, scientific and technological developments simultaneously confront us with tremendous democratic challenges, as they introduce known and unknown risks to health, the environment and social justice.

To adequately address these democratic challenges, it is imperative to investigate whether and to what extent science communication processes and practices contribute to facilitating or impeding democratic debate and democratic citizenship with regards to technoenvironmental controversies. The aim of this paper is to put forward a new perspective in the field of science communication which allows for evaluation of science communication processes and practices in this light. The first section elaborates on the main components of this perspective, before arguing in a following section why the conventional approaches to science communication are incongruent with this perspective. This paper concludes by discussing its implications for designing and evaluating future science communication processes and practices.

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