The Museum of Science, Boston, in partnership with Arizona State University, the Woodrow Wilson International Center for Scholars, the Loka Institute, and Scienceforcitizens.net, is conducting a 1.5-day workshop whose goal is to strengthen and expand recent cross-sector network-building activities related to engaging the public in conversations and deliberations about the assessment of the societal implications of science and technology. In attendance are about two-dozen participants representing a wide range of informal science education professionals, STEM researchers, and science policy experts.
The workshop is focusing on: (1) techniques for citizen participation in technology assessment, (2) ways in which informal educational organizations are addressing the intersection of STEM with personal and societal decision-making, and (3) models for leveraging work done by others who are exploring public engagement with future technologies. The process will also help generate and coalesce ideas for the 2012 World-Wide Views on Biodiversity program, an international effort to engage the public on the topic of world-wide loss of biodiversity. The workshop outcomes will be evaluated by the Museum's Research and Evaluation Department.
This project allowed educators at the Museum of Science in Boston, in collaboration with several university partners, to conduct a workshop to bring social scientists and science museum educators together to plan ways to engage the public in disucssions about science and technology public policy questions. We particularly focused on how science museums could engage the public broadly and openly in consideration of issues that were simultaneously being deliberated on in a more formal citizen consultation process organized by the social scientists. While we reviewed a variety of topics that will be important to discuss in the future, the workshop use a specific upcoming event as an example to focus its discussions on -- World Wide Views on Biodiversity. This global citizen consultation will take place on September 15 at 34 sites in 25 countries involving 3400 citizens. Citizen view on public policy related to biodiversity will be communicated to the particpants of the United Nations COP 11 meeting in India in mid-October. But what can science museums due to reach and engage a larger number of visitors beyond the total of 400 involved in the formal consultation in the four US sites. Participants developed ideas about: 1. a museum gallery experience that made use of existing exhibits within the museum to raise questions and stimulate discussion about biodiversity; 2. a field experience, using resources from the Encyclopedia of Life, in which participants explore the biodiversity of an area within the community perhaps on or near the museumâ€™s site; 3. a discussion forum about which entities within society would be most appropriate for and effective at managing the loss of biodiversity; and 4. an all-day event, in which many activities related to biodiversity are presented. The Museum of Science in Boston will develop materials to share with the broader field to help organizations implement these kinds of educational experiences for the public. Broader impacts, beyond planning the potential programs included knowledge gained by the workshop participants themselves and the interest in engaging the public that the workshop generated. • Participants felt more informed about methods, topics, and others involved in public engagement due to their participation in the workshop. • Participants had a renewed interest in implementing public engagement with science activities due to the workshop, especially those that align with their institutional missions and don't require extensive resources. • Participants reported that the workshop impacted their future work by increasing the likelihood they would implement the activities brainstormed during the workshop.