Public Engagement with Science is an approach that seeks to bridge the gap between science and society through intentional, meaningful, conversations among publics and scientists for mutual learning and shared decision-making. This is premised on the assumption that both publics and scientists have expertise, valuable perspectives, and knowledge (I.e., research competency / socio-cultural competency) to contribute to the development of science and its application in society. At SFA Foundation, this programme focuses on discussing problems that communities view as worth solving; the information society needs and wants from scientists; the potential risks, benefits, and consequences of new technologies and science outcomes; and building trust among public stakeholders. In other words, beyond understanding scientific work and its impacts, PES addresses complex issues like trust in science, familiarity with worldviews, and understanding social structure with the intent of creating a supportive environment for science to flourish.
The case for Public Engagement with Science
Engaging non-scientist publics in science has profound benefits. It:
- Builds trust in science and scientists.
- Secures ethical compliance.
- Improves research design (research questions and procedures).
- Optimises research outcomes when it facilitates participant recruitment and retention in research studies/clinical trials.
- Reduces the belief of misleading and false claims.
- Accelerates uptake of research findings and policies.
- Inspires future generations of scientists.
Key tenets of Public Engagement with Science
Public engagement with science has no single or simple definition, but at its core are:
- Bi-directional interactions between scientists and non-scientist publics.
- Seeking perspectives from non-scientist publics.
- Using community perspectives to enrich science.
- Inclusion and Demographic Diversity.
- Mutual learning and benefit.
SFA Foundation’s PES programme implements a three-year, four-pronged, multi-level strategy, reviewed annually. The strategy responds to the Foundation’s strategic thematic areas - Health, Climate and Environment, and Agriculture through the following initiatives:
- Capacity Strengthening for grantees (Training, Seed grants, Knowledge brokering)
- Building Public Trust in Science (Art for Science, Community dialogues, Citizen Science projects)
- Advocacy – Making a case for PES / Changing Mindsets (Influence global and regional research guidelines, institutional policies, funding and granting mechanisms and processes to embed PES)
- Building the Evidence Base for PES (Monitoring, Evaluation and Learning for PES)