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Fostering Conversation about Synthetic Biology Between Publics and Scientists: A Comparison of Approaches and Outcomes

    Authors: Katie Todd1,*, Gretchen Haupt2, Elizabeth Kunz Kollmann3, Sarah Pfeifle3
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    Affiliations: 1: Museum of Science, Boston, MA, 02114; 2: Science Museum of Minnesota, St. Paul, MN, 55102; 3: Museum of Science, Boston, MA, 02114
    AUTHOR AND ARTICLE INFORMATION AUTHOR AND ARTICLE INFORMATION
    • Received 07 August 2017 Accepted 27 November 2017 Published 30 March 2018
    • ©2018 Author(s). Published by the American Society for Microbiology.
    • [open-access] This is an Open Access article distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-NoDerivatives 4.0 International license (https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-nc-nd/4.0/ and https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-nc-nd/4.0/legalcode), which grants the public the nonexclusive right to copy, distribute, or display the published work.

    • *Corresponding author. Mailing address: 1 Science Park, Boston, MA 02114. Phone: 617-589-4235. Fax: 617-589-0187. E-mail: [email protected].
    Source: J. Microbiol. Biol. Educ. March 2018 vol. 19 no. 1 doi:10.1128/jmbe.v19i1.1434
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    Abstract:

    Public engagement with science (PES) is an emerging outreach method that builds trust between scientists and public audiences by encouraging two-way conversations and mutual learning about science content and societal values. Building with Biology, a PES initiative focused on synthetic biology, distributed 182 kits with two types of products to informal science education institutions across the United States: 1) hands-on activities for public events, and 2) materials to run public dialogue programs, called forums. This article compares the interest levels, perceived value, and learning of public participants at these events and forums. Forum participants reported slightly higher levels of increased interest in future activities related to PES and synthetic biology; valued aspects of interpersonal interactions central to dialogue-based programming; and described learning about societal decision-making around synthetic biology. Event participants valued enjoyment and access to content and reported slightly larger learning gains. The current study may help program coordinators and educators thoughtfully select a PES product type that promotes outcomes aligned with their goals: events featuring hands-on activities may support greater understanding of scientific relevance, and forum programs might encourage learning and behavior that leads to deliberative processes.

References & Citations

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6. Leshner AI2003Public engagement with scienceScience29997710.1126/science.299.5609.97712586907 http://dx.doi.org/10.1126/science.299.5609.977
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8. National Academy of Sciences2013The science of science communication II: summary of a colloquiumArthur M. Sackler Colloquia of the National Academy of SciencesWashington, DC
9. Nisbet MC, Scheufele DA2009What’s next for science communication? Promising directions and lingering distractionsAm J Botany961767177810.3732/ajb.0900041 http://dx.doi.org/10.3732/ajb.0900041
10. Simis MJ, Madden H, Cacciatore MA, Yeo SK2016The lure of rationality: why does the deficit model persist in science communication?Public Underst Sci2540041410.1177/096366251662974927117768 http://dx.doi.org/10.1177/0963662516629749
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12. Kollmann EK, Bell L, Beyer M, Iacovelli S2012Clusters of informal science education projects: from public understanding of science to public engagement with science6576 van Lente H, Coenen C, Fleischer T, Konrad K, Krabbenborg L, Milburn C, Thoreau F, Zulsdorf TBLittle by little: expansions of nanoscience and emerging technologiesIOS PressAmsterdam
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/content/journal/jmbe/10.1128/jmbe.v19i1.1434
2018-03-30
2018-12-16

Abstract:

Public engagement with science (PES) is an emerging outreach method that builds trust between scientists and public audiences by encouraging two-way conversations and mutual learning about science content and societal values. Building with Biology, a PES initiative focused on synthetic biology, distributed 182 kits with two types of products to informal science education institutions across the United States: 1) hands-on activities for public events, and 2) materials to run public dialogue programs, called forums. This article compares the interest levels, perceived value, and learning of public participants at these events and forums. Forum participants reported slightly higher levels of increased interest in future activities related to PES and synthetic biology; valued aspects of interpersonal interactions central to dialogue-based programming; and described learning about societal decision-making around synthetic biology. Event participants valued enjoyment and access to content and reported slightly larger learning gains. The current study may help program coordinators and educators thoughtfully select a PES product type that promotes outcomes aligned with their goals: events featuring hands-on activities may support greater understanding of scientific relevance, and forum programs might encourage learning and behavior that leads to deliberative processes.

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Figures

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FIGURE 1

Differences in responses to, “How much did you know about the following topics BEFORE this event/forum, and how much do you know AFTER the event/forum?” Note: Values of 1% or less are not labeled on the chart. Scores of −2 and −3 have been combined for each learning topic, and their combined totals are represented in black.

U = 158711.50, 1,168, = 0.028, = −0.06

U = 154174.50, 1,161, = 0.007, = −0.08

U = 153452.50, = 1,156, = 0.011, = −0.08

Source: J. Microbiol. Biol. Educ. March 2018 vol. 19 no. 1 doi:10.1128/jmbe.v19i1.1434
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