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25Nov Public Culture as Professional Science

London Public Understanding of Science Seminars

Social Psychology Institute & BIOS, (LSE)

Science and Technology Studies, (UCL)

Jane Gregory (UCL)              Martin W Bauer (LSE)

Speaker: Sarah Franklin, LSE and Kevin Burchell, Kingston University

Title: Public culture as professional science


Drawing on ScoPE (Scientists on public engagement), funded by Wellcome Trust, we focus on the public engagement agenda, from the perspective of 'engaged' life scientists.  Findings point to a shift towards an endorsement of public engagement as a matter of professional scientific commitment.  Further, models of unsupportive and 'deficient' publics in need of education and persuasion are complemented and/or replaced by representations of intelligent and supportive publics that might act as legimitate partners in research and the clinic.  Public engagement emerges from scientists' discussions as an anomoly: important, but inadequately rewarded, distracting and potentially stigmatising.  At the same time, interviewees note that these characteristics also render public engagement vocational, voluntary and autonomous. Thus, while interviewees endorse plans to reward public engagement through the REF, some highlight the potential for this move to promote an instrumental public engagement culture.  We conclude by asking how policy-makers might resolve these tensions within public engagement or, indeed, whether it is realistic to do so.  

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