AAAS offers booklet on public engagement with science

In an age of alternative facts, one group has designed a guidebook for how scientists can engage the public when it comes to science and technology.

The Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS) and its affiliate organizations including the Dialogue on Science, Ethics and Religion (DoSER) have teamed up to provide salient talking points for science and scientists to discuss their work in the public square.

The 44-page booklet, “Scientists in Civic Life: Facilitating a Dialogue-based Communication” highlights approaches to providing the public with a better knowledge of science in order improve society. Along with DoSER, fellow AAAS-backed group the Center for Public Engagement with Science and Technology also contributed to the project.

AAAS leaders say that while many scientists feel ill-equipped to take on a larger public presence, it is critical that topics are discussed and understood from a range of perspectives to ensure that scientific progress serves all of humanity.

“Though science has never been an apolitical enterprise, or one in which broader social, cultural or economic contexts have played no role, scientists and scientific institutions increasingly recognize the need to participate in robust and constructive conversations about the role of science and technology in society,” officials write.

Examples such as genetically modified foods and climate change are topics where the focus remains on competing claims that may function as a proxy for ideological and moral differences.

The booklet offers a wide survey of the pertinent issues and challenges regarding the public’s views on science. Issues such as educational disparities, media coverage, economic divides and religious beliefs are dissected for how they relate to knowledge of key scientific concepts.

With regard to solutions, the organizations look at formal and informal dialogue as well as social media and other communication outlets and classroom discussion for examples of how the discussion of science in the public square could potentially take shape.

The full booklet can be downloaded here.

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