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In-depth study of public engagement with science and technology

European support is increasing for engagement with science and technology. An EU initiative gained better insight into public participation with science.
In-depth study of public engagement with science and technology
The cultures that surround participation help transform its practice. To date, there are key aspects of engagement that have been ignored in research. With this in mind, the EU-funded M-A-P-E-S (Materiality and affect in public engagement with science) project examined the practice of public engagement with science. The focus was on interactive forms of science communication.

Work began by advancing the theoretical study of public engagement. Using affect theory, political science and science and technology studies as a basis, project partners published papers on the need to study science communication and public engagement as a material and affective practice. They then developed a framework for empirical engagement and analysis of such interaction between science and society.

The M-A-P-E-S team selected Denmark as a European best practice example in science communication and participation. Research centred on Copenhagen's Euroscience Open Forum, held in 2014, which attracted nearly 40 000 visitors. During the event, team members studied interactions between the public, scientists, science communicators and policymakers at a science policy conference and the Science in the City Festival public outreach programme. They also observed the role that location, material configuration and affect played in these interactions.

To capture visitor engagement during these different forms of science communication, researchers gathered data from six science engagement projects hosted by the Festival. They interviewed organisers, observed participants and examined engagement by photographing visitors. In addition, a short film was produced for each project.

A key finding was that science communication takes place because of a combination of factors, including the construction of national identities, university and research organisation branding, and science policy debates. Public engagement with science cannot exist without this interplay.

In addition, a Copenhagen-based network of practitioners, students and researchers was established to raise awareness of public engagement with science and to benefit from project outcomes.

M-A-P-E-S shed considerable light on science communication and public engagement. In doing so, science communicators, policymakers and funding bodies stand to benefit.

Related information


Public engagement, science and technology, M-A-P-E-S, materiality
Record Number: 188654 / Last updated on: 2016-10-12
Domain: Industrial Technologies