PCST Network

Public Communication of Science and Technology


Participation and dialogue in Dutch Science Cafés. Perspectives from participants and organisers

Anne M. Dijkstra  

Engaging public in science issues has attracted considerable attention both in policy making as well as in academic studies. Science cafés offer a place for information, discussion and engagement for all who are interested in science and it's broader implications for society. Characteristically, they are not meant to formally influence policy making or scientific research. Nevertheless, why do people attend science cafés and how do science cafés contribute to engagement in the changing science-society relationship? In this paper, science cafés - still under-theorized and under-researched (Davies, 2009) - as a popular means of informal science dialogue were explored with the aim to gain more understanding of the science-society relationship. Both perspectives of participants of science café meetings and those of the organisers and moderators of science cafés were analysed. This multi-method approach, with both quantitative (questionnaire) and qualitative data (interviews), allowed a richer analysis and deeper understanding of science cafés and citizens in various roles and levels of engagement with science. In addition to descriptive information about the organisational aspects of science cafés, key findings show that café participants are interested in the topics offered and enjoy the friendly atmosphere. Organisers and moderators also learn from the meetings and, amongst others, aim to enhance a broader discussion about science and technology. According to them, the rising popularity of science cafés may come from the possibility to critical reflect on new developments in science and technology. Science cafés can bring people from both worlds together. In these informal venues people learn to ask questions and debate issues, which may contribute to trust in science as well. This research is completed at the time of the conference. Possible themes: • Evaluating public communication of science and technology • Science communication for social inclusion and political engagement

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