Episode 61: John Durant On Public Understanding of Science

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).

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