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Erschienen in: NanoEthics 2/2018

03.05.2018 | Original Paper

Models of Public Engagement: Nanoscientists’ Understandings of Science–Society Interactions

verfasst von: Regula Valérie Burri

Erschienen in: NanoEthics | Ausgabe 2/2018

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Abstract

This paper explores how scientists perceive public engagement initiatives. By drawing on interviews with nanoscientists, it analyzes how researchers imagine science–society interactions in an early phase of technological development. More specifically, the paper inquires into the implicit framings of citizens, of scientists, and of the public in scientists’ discourses. It identifies four different models of how nanoscientists understand public engagement which are described as educational, paternalistic, elitist, and economistic. These models are contrasted with the dialog model of public engagement promoted by social scientists and policymakers. The paper asks if and in what ways participatory discourses and practices feed back into scientists’ understandings, thus co-producing public discourses and science.

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Fußnoten
1
Miah suggests a “scientific agency model”—in addition to the deficit model, the dialog model, and the upstream model—that takes recent media developments into account. Social media, he claims, “has the capacity to empower users and transforms audiences into co-producers of knowledge, rather than consumers of content” [55, p. 139].
 
2
Dudo et al. examine nanoscientists’ communication behaviors rather than how they perceive public engagement initiatives [84]. One exception is the recent study by Kim et al., which explores the decisive factors that shape nanoscientists’ perception of political involvement [86]. This large-scale survey, however, does not inquire into scientists’ interpretive patterns in-depth but looks for correlations between factors—such as ethnicity, risk perception, and religious faith—and the support for public engagement. Some of these aspects have also been investigated for other technologies. The construction of meanings, for example, has been analyzed in regard to citizens’ perceptions of biomedical technologies [87, 88], and scientists’ response to public engagement has been investigated in the field of genetics [89].
 
3
In the OECD statistical chart “Nanotechnology R&D expenditures in the business sector, 2014 or latest available year” that compares countries internationally, Switzerland ranks on the ninth position internationally and on the fifth position among the European countries (http://​www.​oecd.​org/​sti/​nanotechnology-indicators.​htm, accessed March 30, 2017). The public expenditures in nanotechnology research are also very high in Switzerland.
 
4
This does not necessarily mean that nanosciences are their dominant field of identification, rather, many nanoscientists refer to themselves as material scientists, physicists, engineers, and so on.
 
5
These engagements, and thus the related names of the scientists, were identified in a broad search of publicly accessible documents and event announcements in the media, on web pages, and in science communication materials. The selection of the interviewees followed a two-step process. First, all the names of scientists encountered in this search were collected (30 in total) out of which the ones mentioned in multiple events were highlighted. The resulting 14 potential interviewees were contacted; two of the selected scientists declined to be interviewed, and two others were not available. Ten interviews out of the 14 selected persons could be conducted. The expert interviews were made face to face with individual scientists. The expert interviews were analyzed with the aim of reconstructing social interpretive patterns; they were thus theory-generating expert interviews [90, pp. 7, 43].
 
6
Citations taken from the interviews are translated into English by the author.
 
7
Such a support for the involvement in public communication activities and political debates has been also found in studies of nanoscientists in the USA [84, 86].
 
8
While Callon includes the sources of legitimacy and modes of risk perception in his discussion, he does not make an analytical distinction between citizens and consumers [44]. In the study on which this article is based, consumers in the perceptions of the interviewed nanoscientists have not been addressed with the exception of one model discussed later. The term “educational model” used in this article emphasizes three further issues: first, it draws on two different models (Wynne’s “deficit model” and Callon’s “public education model”); second, it is derived from empirical inquiries and thus resulting from in-depth data analysis; third, it refers to the forms of public engagement as perceived by nanoscientists and does not describe, in contrast to Callon and Wynne, general models.
 
9
A similar demarcation has been found in Peters’ large-scale study on the public communication of scientists [102]. The findings of his study show that most scientists assume a two-arena model with a gap between the arenas of internal scientific communication on the one hand and public communication on the other hand.
 
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Metadaten
Titel
Models of Public Engagement: Nanoscientists’ Understandings of Science–Society Interactions
verfasst von
Regula Valérie Burri
Publikationsdatum
03.05.2018
Verlag
Springer Netherlands
Erschienen in
NanoEthics / Ausgabe 2/2018
Print ISSN: 1871-4757
Elektronische ISSN: 1871-4765
DOI
https://doi.org/10.1007/s11569-018-0316-y

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