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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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2. Irwin A 1995 Citizen science: a study of people, expertise and sustainable development Routledge London
3. Irwin A 2014 Risk, science and public communication: third-order thinking about scientific culture 160 170 Bucchi M, Trench B Routledge handbook of public communication of science and technology Second ed Routledge New York, NY
4. National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine 2015 Trust and confidence at the interfaces of the life sciences and society Does the public trust science? A workshop summary The National Academies Press Washington, DC
5. Dickel S 2016 Trust in technologies? Science after de-professionalization J Sci Commun 15 1 7
6. Leshner AI 2003 Public engagement with science Science 299 977 10.1126/science.299.5609.977 12586907 http://dx.doi.org/10.1126/science.299.5609.977
7. Yankelovich D 2003 Winning greater influence for science Issues Science Technol 19 4 7 11
8. National Academy of Sciences 2013 The science of science communication II: summary of a colloquium Arthur M. Sackler Colloquia of the National Academy of Sciences Washington, DC
9. Nisbet MC, Scheufele DA 2009 What’s next for science communication? Promising directions and lingering distractions Am J Botany 96 1767 1778 10.3732/ajb.0900041 http://dx.doi.org/10.3732/ajb.0900041
10. Simis MJ, Madden H, Cacciatore MA, Yeo SK 2016 The lure of rationality: why does the deficit model persist in science communication? Public Underst Sci 25 400 414 10.1177/0963662516629749 27117768 http://dx.doi.org/10.1177/0963662516629749
11. Engdahl E, Lidskog R 2014 Risk, communication and trust: towards an emotional understanding of trust Public Underst Sci 23 703 717 10.1177/0963662512460953 25414929 http://dx.doi.org/10.1177/0963662512460953
12. Kollmann EK, Bell L, Beyer M, Iacovelli S 2012 Clusters of informal science education projects: from public understanding of science to public engagement with science 65 76 van Lente H, Coenen C, Fleischer T, Konrad K, Krabbenborg L, Milburn C, Thoreau F, Zulsdorf TB Little by little: expansions of nanoscience and emerging technologies IOS Press Amsterdam
13. McCallie E, Bell L, Lohwater T, Falk JH, Lehr JL, Lewenstein BV, Needham C, Wiehe B 2009 Many experts, many audiences: public engagement with science and informal science education A CAISE Inquiry Group report Center for Advancement of Informal Science Education
14. Kollmann EK, Reich C, Bell L, Goss J 2013 Tackling tough topics: using socio-scientific issues to help museum visitors participate in democratic dialogue and increase their understandings of current science and technology J Museum Educ 38 174 186 10.1080/10598650.2013.11510768 http://dx.doi.org/10.1080/10598650.2013.11510768
15. Storksdieck M, Stylinski C, Bailey D 2016 Typology for public engagement with science: a conceptual framework for public engagement involving scientists Center for Research on Lifelong STEM Learning
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17. Palmer M, Kuldell N, Sittenfeld D 2016 Building with biology BioCoder 41 50

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/content/journal/jmbe/10.1128/jmbe.v19i1.1434
2018-03-30
2019-09-22

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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