Author: Jennifer Metcalfe – Econnect Communication, Australia

My PhD research compared the dominant science communication models (deficit, dialogue, participation) with case studies of practice. I found that the models proposed by scholars do not appear to take into account the extensive nature and mix of objectives for initiating or participating in science communication activities.

Most science engagement activities have objectives and characteristics that reflect a mix of those theorised for deficit, dialogue and sometimes participatory activities. My research indicates that this coexistence of models in practice appears to be not merely an unintentional lucky accident but a necessity for science communication activities to achieve their desired outcomes, especially when the science is controversial.

My research indicates that science communication is not an evolution from deficit to dialogue to participation (or from evil to good). In fact, it appears that long-term participatory science communication can lead to more effective deficit and dialogue-style communication.

Furthermore, I found that the nature of the relationships between the actors involved in a science engagement activity can determine the success of that activity in achieving its desired outcomes. Trusted relationships, in particular, are critical for participatory science communication activities.

My research of practice improves our understanding of how theorised science communication models might be further shaped to better reflect and even influence practice. I propose the new nexus model for science communication and describe how this can be implemented within the practical contexts of considering the objectives for engagement, who is involved in the engagement activity, and how positive relationships can be fostered among those participating.

The author has not yet submitted a copy of the full paper.

Presentation type: Visual presentation
Theme: Transformation

Author: Jennifer Metcalfe – Econnect Communication, Australia


  • Anne Leitch – Adjunct researcher, Griffith University; casual senior editor, NatureResearch, Australia
  • Tibisay Sankatsing Nava – Royal Netherlands Institute: SE Asian & Caribbean, Netherlands
  • Christy Standerfer – U of Arkansas Clinton School of Public Service, United States
  • Tali Tal – Technion, Israel

The last two decades have seen calls by scholars for science communication to become participatory in nature, and to move away from linear (deficit and dialogue) engagement of publics. Theorised participatory science communication happens when scientists and publics directly interact in a process that scholars argue leads to a greater democratisation of science (Brossard & Lewenstein, 2010; Bubela et al., 2009; Joly & Kaufmann, 2008).

Scientists do not necessarily drive the participative process and publics may initiate and direct the engagement. This contrasts with the theorised deficit (one-way communication from scientists to public) and dialogue (two-way communication between scientists and publics) models of science communication, usually initiated by scientists (Rowe & Frewer, 2005; Bucchi, 2008).

Participatory science communication is theorised to possess an openness between participants and a deliberative democratic potential that linear models of science communication failed to deliver in practice. Achieving such a democratic potential relies on scientific governance to change its notions of power and control (Irwin, 2006; Stirling, 2008).

However, there is no joint understanding of what ‘participatory’ science communication means despite the push towards it by scholars, practitioners and research agencies.

This session will examine specific cases of participatory science communication that have created positive societal change. Presenters will use their case studies to discuss the comparative usefulness of participatory approaches, the constraints to participation, and the potential seriousness and reach of participation. The session will conclude with a discussion of how science communication scholars and practitioners can collaborate to promote a scientific culture where more effective participatory programs are valued and supported.

The author has not yet submitted a copy of the full paper.

Presentation type: Linked papers
Theme: Transformation

Author: Jennifer Metcalfe – Econnect Communication, Australia


  • Heather Doran – Leverhulme Research Centre for Forensic Science, University of Dundee, United Kingdom
  • Maja Horst – University of Copenhagen, Denmark
  • Jennifer Manyweathers – Charles Sturt University, Australia
  • Michiel van Oudheusden – University of Cambridge, Belgium

Participatory science communication happens when scientists are one of the groups participating on a relatively equal basis with various publics, including policymakers, citizens, school children, farmers, technologists and industry. The aim of such participatory science communication is often to address an issue or societal problem.

In the early 2000s, a new participatory model of science communication gained traction in the scholarly literature. The participatory model appealed to scholars who theorised the democratisation of science as a solution to engaging publics in jointly tackling societal issues of concern. For controversial scientific issues, like climate change, public participation was argued to be beneficial for critically reviewing research, solving problems or supporting behaviour and policy changes. However, participatory science communication can be as much about the process of diverse publics engaging with each other as the outcomes.

This Roundtable session will begin with a short overview of specific but diverse cases of participatory science communication including forensic science; participation of scientists and policymakers in supporting science communicators; livestock production groups involving multiple stakeholders; and debate on nuclear power. There will then be a moderated discussion about our various perceptions and definitions of ‘participatory science communication’; what works or not with participatory science communication; how publics and scientists can be changed by the process of participation; and how scholars and practitioners can support more participatory science communication programs. The session will then be opened to questions and discussion with the audience.

The author has not yet submitted a copy of the full paper.

Presentation type: Roundtable discussion
Theme: Transformation

Author: Jennifer Metcalfe – Econnect Communication, Australia

Joan Leach – Australian National University
Bruce Lewenstein – Cornell University
Brian Trench – PCST

In November 2017, 22 international experts participated in an intensive 3-day conference at the Rockefeller Foundation’s Centre at Bellagio, Italy.

The meeting examined the current state of science communication, and considered the theoretical basis for science communication research and practice, as well identifying the means for building stronger links between practitioners and researchers.

In this session, 4 speakers will explore in detail the issues coming out of the Bellagio meeting:

  • Professor Joan Leach will discuss ‘Publics for science communication: the problematic for the field’. This is a paper prepared by Joan and other Bellagio participants: Emily Dawson, Luz Helena Oviedo, Rick Borcheldt, Cary Funk.
  • Professor Brian Trench will discuss ‘ Perspectives for science communication research’. This paper is prepared by Brian and other Bellagio participants: Toss Gascoigne, Alex Gerber, Felicity Mellor, Maarten van der Sanden
  • Professor Bruce Lewenstein will discuss ‘Science communication as a field’. This paper is papred by Brian and other Bellagio participants: Peter Broks, Emily Dawson, Lloyd Davis, Niels Mejlgaard, and Martin Storksdieck
  • Jenni Metcalfe will discuss ‘Collaboration between science communication scholars and practitioners’. This paper is prepared by Jenni and other Bellagio participants: Ayelet Baram-Tsabari, Marta Entradas, Marina Joubert, Luisa Massarani, Michelle Reidlinger

The author has not yet submitted a copy of the full paper.

Presentation type: Grouped paper
Theme: Society
Area of interest: Building a theoretical basis for science communication