In recent years, folks in the informal science education community have been talking about “public engagement with science” in a new way. For years we’ve used that term to mean educational engagement in a self-directed, or free-choice, learning environment. But we’ve picked up a new meaning from the science communication and public policy fields to define public engagement with science in informal science education to mean mutual learning experiences in which members of expert communities and members of public communities learn from each other. The Center for the Advancement of Informal Science Education published a report in 2009 describing this.
World Wide Views on Biodiversity is a prime example of public engagement with science in that it scores high on three dimensions of public engagement described in that report.
- It’s about public policy related to science and technology and not just what biodiversity is.
- Public participants not only learn and deliberate about biodiversity issues but they develop recommendations about what they think should be done.
- Experts at the United Nations COP11 in India will be presented with the recommendations to be taken into consideration in their international deliberations and policy setting.
Those directly involved in this project are learning a lot from each other and by doing the work. We hope to find ways to share what we’ve learned more broadly through future activities of ECAST and through discussions supported by the Association of Science-Technology Centers both online and at it’s annual conference in October.