Synthetic biology in the Science Cafe: what have we learned about public engagement?

November 27th, 2012 | RESEARCH

Engaging the public on emerging science technologies has often presented challenges. People may hold notions that science is too complicated for them to understand and the venues at which science is discussed are formal and perceived as inaccessible. One approach to address these challenges is through the Science Cafe, or Cafe Scientifique. We conducted five Science Cafes across Canada to gauge public awareness of the synthetic biology technology, its potential applications, and to evaluate the effectiveness of the Science Cafe platform as a knowledge-translation tool. Cafe participants were excited about the potential benefits of synthetic biology technology, but also concerned about the potential risks. And while participants trusted scientists to carry out their research, there was limited confidence that regulators would ensure public safety. Science Cafes as a forum for science to meet society were viewed positively for the relaxed atmosphere, small crowd size, and informality of the venue. We conclude that Science Cafes are an effective upstream engagement platform for discussing emerging science technologies.


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Team Members

Erin Navid, Author, University of Calgary
Edna Einsiedel, Author, University of Calgary


Identifier Type: issn
Identifier: 1824-2049

Publication: Journal of Science Communication
Volume: 11
Number: 4

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Audience: General Public | Scientists
Discipline: Education and learning science | Life science | Technology
Resource Type: Peer-reviewed article | Research Products
Environment Type: Community Outreach Programs | Public Programs