Although some listeners may be new to thinking about science communication, it’s not a new field. Our latest podcast guest, Dr. John Durant, puts current science engagement practices in its historical context. In the 1990’s in the UK, there was a shift in expert thinking about working on ‘Public Understanding on Science’ to “Public Engagement On Science.” The shift came after practitioners realized the shortcomings of The Deficit Model, which states that if the public knew more about science, they would accept it better. Practitioners realized that this has some glaring assumptions that made the model not helpful: (1) that scientists have all the knowledge and the public knows nothing, (2) that if the public had more information they would love science (i.e. to know us, is to love us) and (3) that the public has nothing important to say. Newer thinking believed that the public does have an important part to play in science and that we need to get scientists and the public to talk together instead of just the transmission of knowledge from one to the other. John has been involved in science communication science the 1980’s and is an expert in formulating and measuring best practices for science communication as Director of the MIT Museum in Boston. He has led the charge on many science engagement practices, including founding the International Science Festival Alliance and being the founding Editor-in-Chief of the peer-reviewed publication, “Public Understand of Science” (Sage publications).
Available Episode Formats:
Related Episode Links:
- Read more about John at the ‘Culture of Science Engagement” website
- John is the Director of the MIT Museum – learn more about the museum and exhibits. This is engagement at its finest.
- John is also adjunct faculty at MIT in the Science, Technology, and Society program (Nina got a minor in STS back in the day!)
- An example of ‘The Deficit Model’ causing more harm than good when scientists get the science wrong: Brian Wynne’s article on fallout from Chernobyl in Northwest England sheep.
- For some historical context, check out the 2000 House of Lords report on the crisis of trust between science and the public.
- Also check out this classic: “The Bodner Report – Public Understanding of Science” 1985, by the Royal Society