Science communication for social change: What does STS have to offer?

Science communication for social change: What does STS have to offer?

Author: Sarah Davies – Norwegian University of Science and Technology, Norway


  • Ulrike Felt – University of Vienna, Austria
  • Rhian Salmon – Victoria University Wellington, New Zealand
  • Melanie Smallman – University College London, United Kingdom

Over the past decades Science and Technology Studies (STS) has had an important, though contested, impact on science communication research and practice. Concepts such as the ‘deficit model’, public engagement, or co-production (Irwin & Wynne 1996; Jasanoff 2004; Wilsdon & Willis 2004) have been developed by STS researchers and taken up within science communication, substantially shaping the ideas and norms of the field. At the same time, STS interactions with practice and practitioners in communication and policy have often been uncomfortable or fraught with misunderstanding (see, e.g., Balmer et al 2015).

In this roundtable we wish to open up a discussion as to what, specifically, STS can offer science communication teaching, research, and practice. Our aim is to explore how STS knowledge can be productively mobilised to improve science communication – that is, to help work towards science communication that actively aims for and helps achieve positive social change. Three short presentations will relate how the speakers use STS ideas in their science communication oriented research (Felt), teaching (Smallman), and public and policy engagement activities (Salmon). The emphasis will be on the value of (particular) aspects of STS in specific contexts, and on how these aspects can be put to work in practice. The session will then open up to a moderated discussion involving everyone present, examining such questions as: what are the most productive and useful strands of STS work for science communication? What can engaging with STS scholarship look and feel like? And where are STS ideas currently under-utilised, within the context of promoting science communication for social change?

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

Presentation type: Roundtable discussion
Theme: Transformation