Comparing theory and practice

Scholars have variously described different models of science communication over the past 20 years, but there's been little assessment of theory against science communication practice. A new Public Understanding of Science article from CPAS PhD researcher Jenni Metcalfe compares 515 science engagement activities recorded in a 2012 Australian audit against the theorised characteristics of the three dominant models of deficit, dialogue and participation. 

Most of the activities had objectives that reflected a mix of deficit and dialogue activities — despite increases in scientific controversies like climate change, there appears to be a paucity of participatory activities in Australia. Those that do exist are mostly about people being involved with science through activities like citizen science.

These participatory activities appear to coexist with, and perhaps even depend on, deficit activities. Science communication scholars could develop their models by examining the full range of objectives for engagement found in practice and by recognising that any engagement will likely include a mix of approaches.

Read the full paper here.