PCST Network

Public Communication of Science and Technology


How to tackle stakeholders' lack of participation in public engagement activities

Núria Saladie  

One of the main challenges when organizing public engagement activities is to be able to reach a true participation from the general public. This problem is particularly tricky when the issue to be discussed is unfamiliar to the expected audience. In this presentation, we will explain how Universitat Pompeu Fabra (Barcelona, Spain) dealt with this challenge during the organization of public engagement activities (or Mobilizations and Mutual Learning activities, MML) in the framework of the FP7 European project NERRI (Neuro-Enhancement and Responsible Research and Innovation). As we will see, the task of recruiting actors for public engagement activities talking about Neuro-Enhancement (NE) is especially problematic. Universitat Pompeu Fabra (UPF) has organized nine Mobilizations and Mutual Learning (MML) activities related to this discipline within the framework of the project NERRI. During these experiences, three major obstacles have been identified regarding stakeholders' lack of willingness to participate in public engagement activities: 1) the unfamiliarity of the term; 2) the blurred limit between science and science fiction in this field; and 3) the diverse nature of the different technologies included under the umbrella of NE ("natural" substances, drugs, technological devices, surgical procedures, and others). UPF has come up with two main ways to counteract these resistances, which may also apply to other projects. In this case, the problem was solved by: 1) designing public engagement activities in such a way that they started with a preliminary phase of information and promoting discussion; and 2) creating a multidisciplinary local committee to join forces and give support to the cause of the project.

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