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Open Access The public-engaged scientists: Motivations, enablers and barriers

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Why do scientists volunteer to be involved in public engagement in science? What are the barriers that can prevent them participating in dialogue with society? What can be done to facilitate their participation? In this paper we present a case study of the Children's University programme of the International School for Advanced Studies (SISSA) (Trieste, Italy), discussing the three-year experience, and reporting the outcomes of a series of focus groups conducted with the young scientists who volunteered in the programme. Two kinds of motivations emerged. The first is personal, for example volunteers' desire to improve their own communication abilities, or their curiosity for a new activity. The second is related to the perceived role of scientists in society: many volunteers feel a sense of duty and the need to promote science and its importance in society, to have an impact on the public perception of science and to seed the love for science in young people. After the first year of their involvement, volunteers expressed the need to keep improving their communication skills and participating in professional training courses, and agreed that science communication should become part of all standard training programmes of PhDs. In order for the outreach not to remain a sporadic experience, it is essential that a strong institutional commitment exists to promote, recruit, encourage, professionally train and support those involved.
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Keywords: DEVELOPMENT AND TRAINING IN SCIENCE COMMUNICATION; PROFESSIONAL; PUBLIC ENGAGEMENT WITH SCIENCE AND TECHNOLOGY; PUBLIC ROLE OF YOUNG SCIENTISTS

Document Type: Research Article

Publication date: 01 July 2018

More about this publication?
  • Engagement with research goes further than participation in it. Engaged individuals and communities initiate research, advise, challenge or collaborate with researchers. Their involvement is always active and they have a crucial influence on the conduct of the research.

    Research for All is a peer-reviewed journal focusing on research that involves universities and communities, services or industries working together. Contributors and readers are from both inside and outside of higher education. They include researchers, policymakers, managers, practitioners, community-based organizations, schools, businesses and the intermediaries who bring these people together. The journal highlights the potential in active public engagement for robust academic study, for the development of involved communities, and for the impact of research. It explores engagement with different groups and their cultures, and features theoretical and empirical analysis alongside authoritative commentary to explore a range of themes that are key to engaged research including the development of reciprocal relationships, sector-specific communication and participatory action research. The journal is co-sponsored by the UCL Institute of Education and the National Co-ordinating Centre for Public Engagement.

    The journal welcomes relevant articles. See the publication homepage for details, or contact [email protected]

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