Public support for many areas of science is considered to be waning; particularly in the application of science for new technology development. In most cases, this is not due to misgivings about research, but due to emerging discourse about who benefits from the outputs of science and who decides the direction taken by science. Given the overall benefits of science to humanity throughout history, there is a need to address this disquiet and look at improved models for engaging a broader range of democratically representative public groups. Central to this challenge is the question of how science is communicated, as existing science communication models may help explain how disconnects between the scientific enterprise and public perceptions of science have arisen.

The predominant linear approach to science communication has the opposite impact to that intended with some public groups becoming more mistrustful of science as their awareness increases. Democratic models of science communication are being promoted in response to calls for greater transparency and accountability in decision‐making in science and technology (S&T). Such models aim to encourage two‐way dialogue between public groups and the scientific community, and hence broaden the input of public groups into S&T policy.

We examined the range of mechanisms for facilitating stakeholder inputs into S&T policy in Ireland and elsewhere, including foresight studies and technology assessment models. In this process, we identified patient groups as being a potential working model for democratic science communication. Patient groups are typically representative of, and accountable to, their members. By the nature of their mission, they are transparent about their motivations for promoting particular scientific research, namely that directed towards the alleviation of their specific disease or syndrome of interest.

Our research demonstrates there is potential for patient groups and similar representative groups in society to engage more with S&T policy setting mechanisms. However, communication and resource deficits acting as barriers between patient groups and the broader scientific research community will have to be breached to facilitate this.

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Public Communication of Science and Technology

 

Potentials for implementing the democratic model of science communication

Catherine Mahony   University College Cork

Charles Spillane   University College Cork

Public support for many areas of science is considered to be waning; particularly in the application of science for new technology development. In most cases, this is not due to misgivings about research, but due to emerging discourse about who benefits from the outputs of science and who decides the direction taken by science. Given the overall benefits of science to humanity throughout history, there is a need to address this disquiet and look at improved models for engaging a broader range of democratically representative public groups. Central to this challenge is the question of how science is communicated, as existing science communication models may help explain how disconnects between the scientific enterprise and public perceptions of science have arisen.

The predominant linear approach to science communication has the opposite impact to that intended with some public groups becoming more mistrustful of science as their awareness increases. Democratic models of science communication are being promoted in response to calls for greater transparency and accountability in decision‐making in science and technology (S&T). Such models aim to encourage two‐way dialogue between public groups and the scientific community, and hence broaden the input of public groups into S&T policy.

We examined the range of mechanisms for facilitating stakeholder inputs into S&T policy in Ireland and elsewhere, including foresight studies and technology assessment models. In this process, we identified patient groups as being a potential working model for democratic science communication. Patient groups are typically representative of, and accountable to, their members. By the nature of their mission, they are transparent about their motivations for promoting particular scientific research, namely that directed towards the alleviation of their specific disease or syndrome of interest.

Our research demonstrates there is potential for patient groups and similar representative groups in society to engage more with S&T policy setting mechanisms. However, communication and resource deficits acting as barriers between patient groups and the broader scientific research community will have to be breached to facilitate this.

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

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