Building Capacity for Citizen Engagement in Science

We discussed the paper entitled, “Experiments in Engagement: Designing Public Engagement with Science and Technology for Capacity Building” by Selin, et al. during our Twitter chat on October 3, 2017.

March for Science sign

A summary of the paper can be found here.  The paper was an attempt to address the broad question of how we can build capacity for public engagement in science and technology.  The importance of the public’s understanding and engagement in science is highlighted by the recent “politicization” of science.  I think pretty much all of us can here can agree that science matters, but the question now is how do we get the broader public to understand and support science?  Highlights from our discussion are summarized below, including practical applications of the lessons from the paper and suggestions for using science communication to support enhanced citizen engagement in science.

Before discussing how to build capacity for engagement in science, we first discussed what is meant by “capacity building.”  For citizens to be able to participate in science, they need to have the skills to participate effectively.

Practical Applications for Capacity Building

What skills do citizens need to get and stay engaged with science?

  • Regularly reminding people how science is a part of their everyday lives.
  • Helping people to understand how science works through language that they can understand and that makes science relevant to them.
  • Critical thinking skills.
  • How to interpret statistics and understand how to handle conflicting findings without getting overwhelmed.

How can the design principles identified in this study be applied to science engagement activities?

What questions does this article bring up for future research in #scicomm?

  • Identifying themes in what has successfully hooked non-scientists who actively engage with science.
  • Long-term studies of whether people actually become more engaged through programs designed to improve public engagement in science.
  • How to measure increases in capacity building.

Takeaways for Engaging Citizens in Science

  1. Build a solid foundation for public interest in science and help citizens understand their roles in affecting science policy.

  1. Regular engagement activities may be more effective.
  2. One-shot events are less likely to have measurable effects for capacity building.
  3. Integrating citizens’ interests, views, and experiences can help build capacity for  effective and consistent engagement.

More from the Twitter Chat

Our Twitter chat provided an opportunity to discuss practical applications of the lessons from the paper and ideas about how to continuing building capacity for public engagement in science.  Check out the Tweets below for more ideas and insights from our discussion!