Every summer since 1997 a wide range of research institutes, scientific societies, science centers, as well as businesses, municipalities and other public services, have been organizing in Portugal a large number of PCST events, designed for general public. These events – scientific field trips, astronomical observations, visits to lighthouses, high-tech industries, museums, etc – are part of a national campaign,“Living Science at Summer” (Ciéncia Viva no Verão), organized by the National Agency for the Promotion of Scientific and Technological Culture.
 
Many people have participated in these (free of charge) events and the vast majority is very satisfied with it. These activities have some peculiar and innovative characteristics: they provide the public a direct/personal contact with the researchers and other scientific professionals, in social contexts of great informality; and, in most cases, such meetings take place at sites rarely used for PCST proposes, including popular spots for summer holidays. In a way, these initiatives could be classified as scientific tourism.
 
Being an indicator of the changes taking place regarding the relationship between science and society, and the models of PCST, these events helps to foresee some of the central theoretical debates in this field, namely the opposition between the so-called “deficit” and “dialogue” models, or more specifically between educational vs. dialogic approaches, discursive vs. interactive, out of context vs. in context, spectacular vs. reflective, etc.
 
Based on case studies that comprised the ethnographic observation of the events, interviews with its organizers and a survey of the public, this paper aims to present and analyze those particular PSCT activities, focusing on its contents and communication strategies, and how participants understand these experiences, the relationships they establish, the dilemmas they face and the changes that such initiatives may favor. The ultimate goal is to bring to discussion some concrete examples (of PSCT “in action”) that may help to debate some central issues of the models set out above, their oppositions and complementarities. Among the key findings of this study is the idea that, in certain cases, even if those involved in PCST may orient themselves according to some “deficit” principles, the circumstances in which scientists and public meet are likely to induce new ways of approaching.
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Public Communication of Science and Technology

 

Meeting scientists halfway between the lab and the seaside
Some cases to think about “deficits” and “dialogues”

Cristina Conceição   CIES-IUL, Centre for Research and Studies in Sociology, University Institute of Lisbon

Every summer since 1997 a wide range of research institutes, scientific societies, science centers, as well as businesses, municipalities and other public services, have been organizing in Portugal a large number of PCST events, designed for general public. These events – scientific field trips, astronomical observations, visits to lighthouses, high-tech industries, museums, etc – are part of a national campaign,“Living Science at Summer” (Ciéncia Viva no Verão), organized by the National Agency for the Promotion of Scientific and Technological Culture.
 
Many people have participated in these (free of charge) events and the vast majority is very satisfied with it. These activities have some peculiar and innovative characteristics: they provide the public a direct/personal contact with the researchers and other scientific professionals, in social contexts of great informality; and, in most cases, such meetings take place at sites rarely used for PCST proposes, including popular spots for summer holidays. In a way, these initiatives could be classified as scientific tourism.
 
Being an indicator of the changes taking place regarding the relationship between science and society, and the models of PCST, these events helps to foresee some of the central theoretical debates in this field, namely the opposition between the so-called “deficit” and “dialogue” models, or more specifically between educational vs. dialogic approaches, discursive vs. interactive, out of context vs. in context, spectacular vs. reflective, etc.
 
Based on case studies that comprised the ethnographic observation of the events, interviews with its organizers and a survey of the public, this paper aims to present and analyze those particular PSCT activities, focusing on its contents and communication strategies, and how participants understand these experiences, the relationships they establish, the dilemmas they face and the changes that such initiatives may favor. The ultimate goal is to bring to discussion some concrete examples (of PSCT “in action”) that may help to debate some central issues of the models set out above, their oppositions and complementarities. Among the key findings of this study is the idea that, in certain cases, even if those involved in PCST may orient themselves according to some “deficit” principles, the circumstances in which scientists and public meet are likely to induce new ways of approaching.

A copy of the full paper has not yet been submitted.

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