tlohwate@aaas.org
  • Kevin Burchell, Senior Research Fellow,
  • Chloe Sheppard, Researchers' Engagement Manager, Engaging Science
  • PAPERS

    Kevin Burchell, University of Westminster, UK
    Public engagement by researchers in the UK: a 'work in progress'
    The objective of this paper is to report on new quantitative and qualitative research into the factors affecting public engagement by UK researchers. The research suggests that the embedding of public engagement in institutional cultures can be best understood as a 'work in progress'. There are positive indications in the results that public engagement is increasingly part of the landscape of higher education and research institutions, and that participation in and value placed on public engagement has increased in recent years. At the same time, the research suggests that researchers and institutions remain uncertain about systems of rewards for public engagement, within the context of a profession that is driven by research (and teaching). The research suggests that public engagement is more firmly embedded in the context of the arts, humanities and social sciences than it is among researchers in science, technology, engineering and mathematics. The evaluation of public engagement also emerges from the research as a relative blind spot. Broader research over a lengthy period shows that institutional change of this kind is highly challenging and that higher education institutions are known to be relatively slow to change. Within this context, the project indicates that, while recent and current strategies have been helpful, longer term effort – perhaps targeted in particular domains – is required.

    John Besley, Michigan State University, US
    Scientists' priorities for public engagement: Communication objectives and overall goals
    The report will detail a fall 2015/winter 2016 survey of academic U.S. scientists' (~N = 7,500) from a range of scientific societies. The research emphasizes the value of looking at both predictors of engagement as well of predictors of communication objectives (e.g. knowledge, trust, etc.) and overall goals (e.g. funding for personal research or science in general, specific policy positions etc.) that scientists say they prioritize when communicating. Key predictors considered include attitudes, norms, efficacy beliefs. The survey extends on earlier work with the American Association for the Advancement of Science that has shown that scientists appear to prioritize relatively traditional objectives such as knowledge building rather than potentially more strategic ones such as the objective of ensuring that the public sees scientists as warm and competent, or the objective of reframing issues to resonate with audience values. Efficacy beliefs have been the most consistent predictors of prioritizing specific objectives. The potential meaning of the results for science communication training will also be addressed.

    Rosalba Namihira, Universidad Nacional Autonoma de Mexico (UNAM)
    Science and social engagement. Public communication of science (pcs) as a cultural practice of the scientific community in Mexico
    Knowledge societies require Public Communication of Science (PCS) to become a cultural practice of the scientific community, to provide societies with better elements to identify and solve up their problems, make appropriate decisions according their particular situation, and to take part in the use, promotion and regulation of scientific knowledge and its application (OECD, 2003).

    In order to know how researchers in Mexico are establishing these kinds of practices, a quantitative exploratory study, based on a survey among members of the National Researchers System (SNI), was done. In collaboration with Mexico’s National Council of Science and Technology (CONACyT), the Mexican Academy of Sciences (AMC), and the General Directorate for the Dissemination of Science (DGDC-UNAM), an online questionnaire was sent for exploring, among other things, the researchers' activities regarding PCS; their target audiences; the stimuli, motivations and barriers they face; their perception of the public and governmental interest in the research carried out in Mexico, their willingness to accept the participation of the public in the design of STI policies, and to maintain a dialogue with different audiences, beyond the academic scope.

    Participants considered important communicating their research outside the academy, and to including PCS in the curricula of science careers. Even though they were interested in social engagement, their communication with specific sectors (businessmen, politicians, ONG’s, indigenous communities, etc.) is still poor. They perceived science outreach as an opportunity to educate people, but not clearly yet, as a commitment to discuss with the public about their concerns regarding science and its applications in the society.

    DISCUSSANT

    Marina Joubert
    Stellenbosch University, South Africa.

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    PCST Network

    Public Communication of Science and Technology

     

    International Trends in Researchers' Participation In and Attitudes Towards Public Engagement

    Tiffany Lohwater  

    In many countries, the last twenty years have seen increasing calls for scientists (and more recently researchers from all disciplines) to communicate and engage with the public. The objective of this session is to – from an international perspective – focus on the attitudes, perceptions, understandings and motivations of researchers themselves as they respond to these emerging and evolving demands. In particular, papers will address one or more of the following questions: what motivates researchers to communicate and engage with the public; what factors facilitate or inhibit researchers from participating in such activities; how have these attitudes and behaviours changed over time; and, are there differences between different groups of researchers (perhaps along disciplinary, seniority or gender lines)?

    ORGANISERS

    PAPERS

    Kevin Burchell, University of Westminster, UK
    Public engagement by researchers in the UK: a 'work in progress'
    The objective of this paper is to report on new quantitative and qualitative research into the factors affecting public engagement by UK researchers. The research suggests that the embedding of public engagement in institutional cultures can be best understood as a 'work in progress'. There are positive indications in the results that public engagement is increasingly part of the landscape of higher education and research institutions, and that participation in and value placed on public engagement has increased in recent years. At the same time, the research suggests that researchers and institutions remain uncertain about systems of rewards for public engagement, within the context of a profession that is driven by research (and teaching). The research suggests that public engagement is more firmly embedded in the context of the arts, humanities and social sciences than it is among researchers in science, technology, engineering and mathematics. The evaluation of public engagement also emerges from the research as a relative blind spot. Broader research over a lengthy period shows that institutional change of this kind is highly challenging and that higher education institutions are known to be relatively slow to change. Within this context, the project indicates that, while recent and current strategies have been helpful, longer term effort – perhaps targeted in particular domains – is required.

    John Besley, Michigan State University, US
    Scientists' priorities for public engagement: Communication objectives and overall goals
    The report will detail a fall 2015/winter 2016 survey of academic U.S. scientists' (~N = 7,500) from a range of scientific societies. The research emphasizes the value of looking at both predictors of engagement as well of predictors of communication objectives (e.g. knowledge, trust, etc.) and overall goals (e.g. funding for personal research or science in general, specific policy positions etc.) that scientists say they prioritize when communicating. Key predictors considered include attitudes, norms, efficacy beliefs. The survey extends on earlier work with the American Association for the Advancement of Science that has shown that scientists appear to prioritize relatively traditional objectives such as knowledge building rather than potentially more strategic ones such as the objective of ensuring that the public sees scientists as warm and competent, or the objective of reframing issues to resonate with audience values. Efficacy beliefs have been the most consistent predictors of prioritizing specific objectives. The potential meaning of the results for science communication training will also be addressed.

    Rosalba Namihira, Universidad Nacional Autonoma de Mexico (UNAM)
    Science and social engagement. Public communication of science (pcs) as a cultural practice of the scientific community in Mexico
    Knowledge societies require Public Communication of Science (PCS) to become a cultural practice of the scientific community, to provide societies with better elements to identify and solve up their problems, make appropriate decisions according their particular situation, and to take part in the use, promotion and regulation of scientific knowledge and its application (OECD, 2003).

    In order to know how researchers in Mexico are establishing these kinds of practices, a quantitative exploratory study, based on a survey among members of the National Researchers System (SNI), was done. In collaboration with Mexico’s National Council of Science and Technology (CONACyT), the Mexican Academy of Sciences (AMC), and the General Directorate for the Dissemination of Science (DGDC-UNAM), an online questionnaire was sent for exploring, among other things, the researchers' activities regarding PCS; their target audiences; the stimuli, motivations and barriers they face; their perception of the public and governmental interest in the research carried out in Mexico, their willingness to accept the participation of the public in the design of STI policies, and to maintain a dialogue with different audiences, beyond the academic scope.

    Participants considered important communicating their research outside the academy, and to including PCS in the curricula of science careers. Even though they were interested in social engagement, their communication with specific sectors (businessmen, politicians, ONG’s, indigenous communities, etc.) is still poor. They perceived science outreach as an opportunity to educate people, but not clearly yet, as a commitment to discuss with the public about their concerns regarding science and its applications in the society.

    DISCUSSANT

    Marina Joubert
    Stellenbosch University, South Africa.

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

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