Comparing and evaluating public policies for scientific culture
Author: Carina Cortassa
Nowadays, the need to promote scientific culture and the public engagement with science and technology appears to be an undeniable issue in the policy-makers agendas. As several studies focused in different contexts show, governments have assumed that stimulating practices of public communication and appropriation of science is a relevant task that makes part and parcel of their S&T policies.
Instead of an additional concern of marginal interest and limited resources, the urgency to narrow the gap between science and society became one of the relevant facets that make up a comprehensive approach of the production, application, transference and circulation of knowledge.
Accordingly, this paper has a dual purpose. In the first place, the outcomes of a recent survey of public policies for science communication and culture in Ibero-American countries are compared with similar studies conducted in other regions and nations, in order to analyse the explicit aims, the underlying motivations and the operative strategies developed in each context. A distinction between the manifested interest at a rhetorical level and the factual level of practices actually carried on will be emphasized in this regard, as well as the huge heterogeneity of actions that in each setting are delivered under the general goal of bringing science and technology closer to people. Thus, the second aim of the paper is to discuss a preliminary set of evidence-based criteria that allows to classify and assess them, in order to facilitate a more accurate comparison of the performances among the different contexts. Concluding remarks will highlight the need to advance in this direction, since the efforts and funds devoted to promote scientific culture should be as measurable and assessable like other issues on S&T policies are.