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

September 15th, 2018 | RESEARCH

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.



Team Members

Larry Bell, Author, Museum of Science, Boston
Caroline Lowenthal, Author
David Sittenfeld, Author
Katie Todd, Author
Sarah Pfeifle, Author
Elizabeth Kollmann, Author, Museum of Science, Boston


Funding Source: NSF
Funding Program: Systems and Synthetic Biology
Award Number: 1421179

Related URLs

Building with Biology: Multi-Site Public Engagement with Science - Synthetic Biology (Innovations in Development)


Audience: General Public | Museum | ISE Professionals | Scientists
Discipline: Engineering | General STEM | Life science | Technology
Resource Type: Reference Materials | Report
Environment Type: Community Outreach Programs | Museum and Science Center Programs | Professional Development | Conferences | Networks | Public Programs | Resource Centers and Networks