What Influences Scientists Participation in Public Engagement – A Qualitative Perspective of Museum Researchers

Author: Santiago Nicolas Canete

One of the steps towards closing the gap between science and society consist of involving the scientific community in meaningful interactions with society. In this respect, research measuring actual participation of scientists -key actors in public engagement- and their attitudes towards communicating with non-experts is still developing. This project used a qualitative approach to examine barriers, motivations, and other factors influencing researchers’ view of and participation in public engagement activities. In depth interviews were conducted with scientists who work at a science museum in the United States and who periodically present public talks to visitors, which allowed analyzing the perspective of active engagers. The study identified specific motivations, barriers and other factor’s affecting scientists’ involvement in public communication of science and technology. Results confirmed findings from prior research but also shed light on new elements that scientists consider regarding their participation in PE. For instance, findings from this study suggest that extrinsic factors have stronger influence in scientists’ willingness to participate and actual participation in PE than intrinsic factors. Barriers to PE were predominantly extrinsic, while motivations showed a balance between internal and external factors.