Age-specific opportunities and challenges found engaging the public in science

Age-specific opportunities and challenges found engaging the public in science

Author: Julia Wallace – Carleton University, Canada

Pam Wolff – Carleton University, Ottawa, Ontario, Canada

Science communication and public engagement activities are often geared towards children and their caregivers. Science centres and museums tend to focus on the hands-on and dazzling, exciting curiosity while catering to a child’s brief attention span.

These techniques are particularly unsuited to seniors, however. This increasing, and increasingly influential demographic, also deserves the opportunity to be informed despite the fast pace of scientific advance. Discoveries in the fields of ageing and health care may be particularly relevant, but many seniors show a desire to keep informed of all aspects of scientific advances from nanotechnology to cosmology. To meet this need, the material must be presented in an accessible manner, without having its complexity masked or stripped away.

Both cases – captivating children and keeping seniors connected and informed – are critically important to the science community. Recognition of the value of fundamental science waxes and wanes among politicians, but public and political views are often a self-reinforcing loop, and an informed and engaged population is the best defence against the devaluation of science and evidence based decision-making.

Carleton University has outreach programs to bring science to all ages, from mini-courses and summer day camps for children, to Science Cafes geared towards adults, to Learning in Retirement programs for seniors. We will share and discuss the opportunities and challenges we found engaging with audiences of all ages.

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

Presentation type: Show, tell and talk
Theme: Society
Area of interest: Influencing policies through science communication