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There are a wide range of interactions between 'science' and 'the public'. Examples range from visiting a museum, or indulging in a science-related hobby, to reading a newspaper article about a breakthrough in the techniques of therapeutic cloning. Many of these interactions could be said to be 'passive'. This free course, Achieving public dialogue, explores the practicalities of the public becoming more 'active' in the direction of science practice by 'two-way' interactions, with dialogue taking place between science and some part of 'the public'.
After studying this course, you should be able to:
- demonstrate a greater awareness of science-based issues of public importance
- demonstrate a greater insight into the phrase ‘the public understanding of science’
- demonstrate a raised awareness of the ways in which the public can be consulted in relation to science policy issues
- think of ways in which the public might in future become more engaged in decision-making about science that has social impact.
- Current section: Introduction
- Learning outcomes
- 1 How did the notion of public dialogue arise?
- 2 What should dialogue with the public aim to achieve?
- 3 Consensus conferences
- 4 The GM Nation? debate
- 5 How might dialogue move on from GM Nation?
- 6 DEMOCS: ‘The game to play to have your say’
- 7 Final thoughts
- Keep on learning
Study this free course
Enrol to access the full course, get recognition for the skills you learn, track your progress and on completion gain a statement of participation to demonstrate your learning to others. Make your learning visible!
Achieving public dialogue
There are a wide range of different interactions between ‘science and the public’. Examples range from visiting a museum, or indulging in a science-related hobby, to reading a newspaper article about a breakthrough in the technique of therapeutic cloning, to attending a protest meeting about plans to build a waste disposal unit near to a residential area. Some such interactions are largely one-way; being a member of the audience for a ‘go-hear’ lecture, visiting a museum or‘‘listening-in’ on the workings of a policy-making committee. However revealing an experience, such events very often the public as a largely passive recipient of information. This course looks at more active forms of involvement by the public; how is the public voice heard and understood? What is public involvement of this type for and is the outcome in some way ‘better’ than traditional methods of policy making?
Our interest therefore is with ‘two-way’ interactions – dialogues between science and some part of ‘the public’, particularly in the context of imminent policy making. Dialogue in this sense is closely allied to what is called public consultation. Indeed, a great many such terms (engagement is another) are used rather loosely to describe interactions of this type and there’ll be more to say about terminology later in the course.
This OpenLearn course provides a sample of Postgraduate study in.
This free course includes adapted extracts from an Open University course which is no longer available to new students. If you found this interesting you could explore more free Science, Maths & Technology courses or view the range of currently available OU Science, Maths & Technology courses.
Copyright & revisions
Originally published: Wednesday, 2nd March 2016
Last updated on: Wednesday, 2nd March 2016
- Creative-Commons: The Open University is proud to release this free course under a Creative Commons licence. However, any third-party materials featured within it are used with permission and are not ours to give away. These materials are not subject to the Creative Commons licence. See terms and conditions. Full details can be found in the Acknowledgements and our FAQs section.
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