What is Public Engagement with Science?
Efforts of university faculty to engage with the public about science used to focus mainly on communicating scientific facts to improve public understanding of science. Now, increasingly, it’s recognized that this deficit model isn’t the right approach. Public engagement with science is a new approach that address complex issues like trust in science, political polarization, identities and worldviews, and understanding scientific methods and social structure.
How the UC Center for Public Engagement with Science approaches this project
Public engagement with science cannot simply involve explaining scientific findings to the public. Instead, effective public engagement requires two-way exchanges that should be shaped more by the participants’ interests than the researchers’ interests.
Effective public engagement with science requires not only expertise in scientific content but also skills in effective communication, bridging of social divides and cultivation of trust, inspiring interest during brief encounters, and multiple perspectives on science and its roles in society. Doing this well requires collaboration among people with expertise in science, education and communication, history and philosophy, and more.
This ambitious, interdisciplinary vision of public engagement with science requires significant collaboration, not just among academic researchers, but also with community partners like experts at museums and zoos, classroom teachers, afterschool care providers, and more. A wide range of stakeholders have an interest in effective public engagement with science, and it is essential to value the expertise, perspectives, and goals of each of them.