Public Engagement with Science A guide to creating conversations among publics and scientists for mutual learning and societal decision-making

Saturday, September 15, 2018
Resource Type:
Report | Reference Materials
Environment Type: 
Public Programs, Community Outreach Programs, Museum and Science Center Programs, Professional Development, Conferences, and Networks, Resource Centers and Networks
General Public | Museum/ISE Professionals | Scientists
Engineering | General STEM | Life science | Technology
Museum of Science, Boston

Public engagement with science (PES) is about dialogue between scientific and technological experts and public audiences about societal questions that science can inform but not answer. In making decisions about these kinds of societal questions, social values and personal experience play roles equal to or greater than the one played by science. Rather than focusing exclusively on science itself, PES focuses on discussing problems that communities view as worth solving; the information society needs and wants from scientists; the potential risks, benefits, and consequences of new technologies; and building trust among stakeholders.

The 2017 National Academies report "Communicating Science Effectively: A Research Agenda" notes that “the most widely held, and simplest, model of what audiences need from science communication…is wrong. A common assumption is that a lack of information and understanding of science fully explains why more people do not appear to accept scientific claims or engage in behaviors or support policies that are consistent with scientific evidence.…And although people may need to have more information or to have information presented more clearly, a focus on knowledge alone often is insufficient.…What is known now, though, is that public engagement often is essential for acceptable decisions about science-related controversies.”

This guide is designed to help staff at informal science education organizations and others who are interested to develop, implement, and evaluate activities and events that incorporate the multidirectional dialogue and mutual learning at the heart of public engagement with science.

Funding Program: 
Systems and Synthetic Biology
Award Number: 

Team Members

Larry BellAuthor
Caroline LowenthalCaroline LowenthalAuthor
Katie ToddKatie ToddAuthor

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