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Public understanding of science vs. public participation in science: Competing or complementing approaches?. Dr. Urs Dahinden, Department of Communication, University of Zurich, Switzerland Presentation at th 6 th International Conference on Public Communication of Science and Technology

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Public understanding of science vs. public participation in science: Competing or complementing approaches?

Dr. Urs Dahinden, Department of Communication, University of Zurich, Switzerland

Presentation at th 6th International Conference on Public Communication of Science and Technology

February 1 - 3, 2001, CERN, Geneva, Switzerland

overview
Overview
  • The problem: increasing distance between science and society
  • Two competing views on the problem:
    • 1) Deficit model: Lack of public understanding
    • 2) Democracy model: Lack of public participation
  • Empirical case study: Energy policy
  • Conclusions
the problem
The problem
  • Science and Society: increasing distance and alienation
  • Paradox: Science is more and more influential, but decreasingly accepted
  • Case studies:
    • Nuclear Power
    • Biotechnology
    • BSE (Mad Cow Disease)
view 1 deficit model lack of public understanding
View 1: Deficit modelLack of public understanding
  • Problem analysis:
    • Velocity and complexity of modern science is too much for non-experts
    • Cultural lag (Osgood): Scientific and technical developments are so fast that culture is laging behind
  • Remedy:
    • Promoting public understanding (knowledge) of science by “Science Public Relations” (e.g. Science Museums, Science Events, Science Journalism etc.)
view 2 democracy model lack of public participation
View 2: Democracy modelLack of public participation
  • Problem analysis:
    • Science is not misunderstood, but distrusted
    • Science as a powerful, but not neutral institution (speaking truth to power) with vested interests (due to sponsoring by government and industry)
  • Remedy:
    • Less technocracy, more democracy (more transparency)
    • Developing procedures of public participation in science
deliberative procedures of public participation
Deliberative procedures of public participation
  • Consensus Conferences
  • Participatory Technology Assessment
  • Citizen Juries (planing cells)
  • Integrated Assessment Focus Groups
  • Deliberative polls
common features of these public participation procedures
Common features of these public participation procedures
  • involvement of normal citizens
  • access to expertise
  • discussion, deliberation
  • policy recommendation
  • function:
    • synthesis of societal values with scientific knowledge
    • microcosmos of social learning
    • link to the public debate necessary
phases in a public participation project
Phases in a public participation project

1. Initiation

Ongoing Social Debate

7. Impact

2. Definition

6. Follow-Up

3. Design

4.Prepa-rationon

5. Realisation

developmental stages in risk communication
Developmental Stages in Risk Communication
  • 1.All we have to do is to get the number right.2. All we have to do is tell them the number3. All we have to do is explain them what we mean by the numbers4. All we have to do is to show them that they\'ve accepted similar risks in the past5. All we have to do is show them that it\'s a good deal for them6. All we have to do is to treat them nice7. All we have to do is to make them partners8. All of the aboveSource: Fischhoff, B. (1995): Risk Perception and Communication Unplugged: Twenty Years of Process. In: Risk Analysis 15, 2 p. 138
empirical data focus groups on energy policy
Empirical Data: Focus groups on energy policy
  • 24 Focus groups (10 German, 6 French, 8 Italian in the respective regions of Switzerland)
  • 140 persons
  • Representative with regard to age and political orientation
input 1 for focus groups energy consumption goals
Input 1 for focus groups: energy consumption goals
  • 121%: Business-as-usual
  • 95%: Stabilisation
  • 33% Substantial reduction

(100%= actual energy level)

input 2 for focus groups means in energy policy
Input 2: for focus groups: Means in energy policy
  • Information:
    • Permanent education, moral suasion
  • Regulation:
    • Energy consumption standards for engines
    • Energy quotas for individuals
  • Economic Instruments
    • CO2-tax: Moderate price increases for fossil energy
    • Energy tax: Substantial price increases on all non-renewable energy sources
    • Energy permits: Special stock exchange for energy permits
s tructure of discussion data
Structure of discussion, data

• Welcome, Questionaire 1

• Discussion about goals in energ policy, including collage

• Discussion about means in energy policy

• Questionaire 2

• Consensus development

• Questionaire 3, end of discussion

• Data: Quantitative: Individual attitudes (t1, 2), collective decisions (t3)

findings rationality of citizen recommendations
Findings: Rationality of citizen recommendations
  • Rationality indicator :
    • consistency between energy consumption goals and means
  • Finding: Increasing rationality of the citizen recommendations
conclusions 1
Conclusions (1)
  • Public understanding and public participation: Complements, rather than competitors
  • Part 1: Why the deficit model needs the democratic model
    • Increasing public understanding requires the subjective feeling of being actively involved (as a citizen or as a consumer)
    • Learning is most intense in phases of conflict (knowledge gap model)
conclusions 2
Conclusions (2)
  • Part 2: Why the democratic model needs the deficit model
    • Promoting the understanding of science: A necessary, but not sufficient element of all public participation procedures
    • Public participation a way of providing equal access to scientific expertise
conclusion 3
Conclusion (3)
  • Paradise is lost: No way back to the times of unquestioned, blind trust in science
  • Public participation procedures:
    • promising, but not yet well understood for developing a new new role for science:
    • Science not anymore the neutral and powerful judge but a partner in the dialogue
  • Further research needed
    • Public participation procedures (how to do it)
    • Evaluation (requirements and impacts)
    • Theoretical reflection in the social and natural sciences: New models of the science-society interaction
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