Public engagement in science and STS engagement in policy; Reflections from Australia
October 22 2012
Seminar Room 1.06, Old Surgeons' Hall, High School Yards, University of Edinburgh, EH1 1LZ
All Welcome, no need to register
Organised by: Innogen at the University of Edinburgh
Australia has traditionally taken a technocratic approach to science-public interactions. It pays some lip service to the idea of "public engagement" or more commonly "community consultation". However, like in many other countries around the world, these science-public interactions tend to be disconnected from policy, to be framed in a narrow scientistic way that excludes a number of people, and to lead to public discontent.
More recently, and as a result of public criticisms of earlier attempts at engaging with the public, a small program within the Federal Government's Department of Industry, Innovation, Science and Research has tried to improve public engagement. The National Enabling Technologies Strategy’s Public Awareness and Community Engagement (NETS-PACE) program has developed a best practice framework called Science & Technology Engagement Pathways (STEP). This framework was developed in consultation with a number of key groups, including scientists, non-governmental organisations, members of the public and STS academics.
In this paper, I reflect on the opportunities for public engagement in science as well as the opportunities for STS engagement in policy in Australia. I examine in particular the example of STEP but also some other instances of science-public engagement. I find that whilst this framework and its establishment is of course not panacea, STS in Australia should continue to partake in these activities if it wants to continue to have entry and some traction in science policy.
Nicola Marks is a lecturer in the Science and Technology Studies, and has a background in Human Genetics and Sociology of Scientific Knowledge. Her research interests include public engagement in science, and social and political aspects of science (especially gender and power dimensions of new reproductive technologies, and the role of lay people in decision-making about science)