Scientist-public interaction: Who’s transforming whom? How many researchers are aware of the transformation process they go through when interacting with the students?

Author: Valentina Grasso – Italian National Research Council, Institute of Bioeconomy; Consorzio LaMMA, Italy


  • Alba L’Astorina – Italian National Research Council, Institute for Remote Sensing of Environment, Italy
  • Armida Torreggiani – Italian National Research Council, Institute of Organic Synthesis and Photoreactivity, Italy

Many scientists carry out communication activities mainly addressed to school as a one-way approach in which they would transfer scientific knowledge to an uneducated public (deficit model). In the last decades, social sciences scholars have described the relationship between experts and not experts as a more complex process than just “filling empty boxes with scientific knowledge” and define it as a more collaborative relationship, where the public has an active role in sharing and creating new knowledge. This is particularly true when the “uneducated public” is made of pupils. We present some reflections from an initiative promoted since 2003 by some researchers of the Italian National Research Council (CNR) base in Bologna, addressed to pupils of different schools. The initial idea of school lessons aimed at spreading the scientific culture has been the basis for further projects, like “Il Linguaggio della Ricerca” funded by the Italian Ministry of Education (, and European projects as “RM@Schools – Raw Matters Ambassador at Schools” ( or “UrBIOfuture”.

The researchers involved belong to different scientific areas and the vast majority of them have no background in social sciences or communication and education studies. The idea of “transferring knowledge” to an “uneducated public” is always in the background and influences their communication approach. However, the active and constant engagement with the pupils has transformed the imaginaries of researchers participating, who start to recognize an impact on their work and not only on the knowledge of pupils. Through a questionnaire addressed to researchers who joined the projects, we explored which dimensions of research work have been affected by the interaction with the audiences and how their ideas of the relationship with pupils have been eventually transformed and reframed. The analysis showed how researchers’ motivations and outreach visions may vary along with scientific areas.

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

Presentation type: Insight talk
Theme: Transformation