Participatory science communication’s power to create societal change

Participatory science communication’s power to create societal change

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