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Science Centers and Public Participation Methods, Strategies, and Barriers


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Science centers and museums are currently experimenting to strengthen the participation of the public in two-way conversations between the public and the institution. Eventually, these activities will lead to a stronger role of the public in the decision-making process of the museum. We analyzed the current situation faced by science museums in Europe in light of the recent discourse on public engagement with science and identified the main barriers and obstacles that prevent actual decision making of the public within the institutions. Finally, we discuss suggestions for solutions.
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DOI: 10.1177/1075547012458910
2013 35: 419 originally published online 25 SeptemberScience Communication
Andrea Bandelli and Elly A. Konijn
Science Centers and Public Participation: Methods, Strategies, and
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DOI: 10.1177/1075547012458910
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1VU University Amsterdam, Amsterdam, Netherlands
Corresponding Author:
Andrea Bandelli, Department of Communication Science, Faculty of Social Sciences, VU
University Amsterdam, De Boelelaan 1081, 1081 HV Amsterdam, Netherlands.
Science Centers and Public
Participation: Methods,
Strategies, and Barriers
Andrea Bandelli1 and Elly A. Konijn1
Science centers and museums are currently experimenting to strengthen
the participation of the public in two-way conversations between the public
and the institution. Eventually, these activities will lead to a stronger role of
the public in the decision-making process of the museum. We analyzed the
current situation faced by science museums in Europe in light of the recent
discourse on public engagement with science and identified the main barri-
ers and obstacles that prevent actual decision making of the public within the
institutions. Finally, we discuss suggestions for solutions.
public engagement, science museums, science centers, public participation,
Science centers and museums (referred to as SCMs in the rest of this article)
have traditionally played an educational role offering their visitors opportu-
nities for informal science and lifelong learning, and they are usually recog-
nized as important players in the communication and dissemination of
science to the larger public. The past decade, however, has been character-
ized by an increased professional interest in and development of activities
420 Science Communication 35(4)
where participatory techniques engaging the public directly with scientists,
researchers, and policy makers are the key components of many public pro-
grams and exhibitions (S. R. Davies, 2009, 2011; Lehr et al., 2007). For
example, projects like “Meeting of Minds” or “Polka” (I. Anderson et al.,
2007; Parisse-Brassens, 2009) involved several SCMs where formal policy
statements in the field of neurological and genetic research were formulated
and subsequently brought to the European institutions. “Open labs” on the
museum floor provide researchers a place to conduct their doctoral and post-
doctoral research in open view of the public (Meyer, 2011). Increasingly
popular are also the “science live” programs, where the public serves as
subjects for a wide array of scientific experiments. Currently such programs
are running at the Science Museum in London, Science Center NEMO in
Amsterdam, Science Gallery in Dublin, and other locations.1 On a more
general level, the international field of science centers has formally resolved
to “further promote dialogue between scientists and the general public so that
public opinions on science and technology can be heard and incorporated
into decision-making processes.”2
SCMs aim therefore to be a direct link between the public and the “doing
of science,” where the museum is in a key position to manage the interactions
of the public with the stakeholders involved in the current practice of science
(Bell, 2008; Chittenden, 2011; Chittenden, Farmelo, & Lewenstein, 2004).
As a result, SCMs are effectively entering the field of science governance by
shaping the relationships of the public with other stakeholders, by enabling
the public to form images of science governance (Felt & Fochler, 2008,
2010), and by allowing the public to be directly involved in research activi-
ties, many of these of a controversial and innovative nature (Chittenden et al.,
2004). Furthermore, SCMs perform another critical function: They enable
scientists, researchers, and other stakeholders to shape and negotiate their
own images of the public. SCMs have become places where the “understand-
ing of the public by scientists” takes place (Lévy-Leblond, 1992), thanks
to the interactions between scientists and the public that they build and
At the same time, SCMs are under pressure to develop new strategies to
engage and involve the public in the development of their activities and pro-
grams, in order to strengthen their social relevance and become meaningful
players in the dialogue between science and society (Rodari & Merzagora,
2007). SCMs are therefore currently developing new methods to share the
traditional authority of the museum with the public and to achieve a more
transparent epistemological process (Cameron, 2008, 2010). The transpar-
ency of such epistemological process, it has been argued, cannot, be achieved,
Bandelli and Konijn 421
however, without a clear role of the public in the governance of the museum
(Bandelli, Konijn, & Willems, 2009). The present article focuses on how
SCMs see this role of the public and on the methods and strategies they
employ to open up their decision-making process to the public.
Even if an increasing number of SCMs are thus becoming interfaces
between science and society, there is so far little evidence that these crucial
roles are effectively communicated to or negotiated with the public. The
extensive literature on visitor and museum studies has traditionally focused
on the relationship between museums and their public, with little attention so
far about how public participation in the governance and decision-making
process of SCMs affects the larger domain of science policy. At the same
time, Science, Technology, and Society studies concerned with the public
participation in science policy have usually confined the role of museums to
the domains of education, dissemination, and communication of science,
leaving a gap about the role of SCMs as platforms to support public participa-
tion in science policy.
The present article aims to fill this void, analyzing the mechanisms of
public participation in the governance of SCMs from a perspective of public
participation in science policy (see Figure 1). Governance is a term that lends
itself to multiple definitions and interpretations (Jordan, Wurzel, & Zito,
2005). In this article, however, the concept of governance is used to describe
the structures and processes where decisions and policy making take place,
both at the institutional level (as in the governance of SCMs) and at the
Figure 1. Context and focus of the present study: Public participation in SCM
policy with outcomes that influence science policy and governance.
Note: SCM = science centers and museums; STS = Science, Technology, and Society.
422 Science Communication 35(4)
national or international level (as in the governance of science). Our focus in
the following is mainly on the governance at the institutional level.
It seems that SCMs advocate (and in fact implement) two-way communi-
cation between the public and the various stakeholders involved in the gover-
nance of science, but it is still unknown to which extent the same two-way
communication is implemented between the public and the museum itself.
For instance, to what extent are the research experiments performed on the
museum floor negotiated with the public? Are the public’s ideas and con-
cerns about the content of the programs taken into account? How are the
dialogue events and the “scientific citizenship” they help establish
(S. R. Davies, McCallie, Simonsson, Lehr, & Duensing, 2008) constructed?
How do museum publics enact themselves during such events (Michael, 2009)?
These are some of the questions that need to be addressed in order to
understand how SCMs perform their role as “facilitators of engagement”
between scientists and the public (Greco, 2007; van Dijck, 2003). There is no
doubt that SCMs are good platforms to bring science to the public, but we
still do not know if the opposite is actually true—that is, whether SCMs are
able to include the public’s voice in their activities and, therefore, in the sci-
ence they construct and present. Science currently plays a critical role in the
governance of SCMs. In many cases, science institutions are among the
founders of science centers; the boards and trustees include scientists and
representatives of scientific institutions; many directors are scientists; scien-
tific advisory boards are either a permanent feature of SCMs or are set up
when a new program is developed. Thus far, however, there is little evidence
that the public plays any role in the governance and in the decision-making
process of SCMs—at least not in the same structural and formal way. Public
participation becomes effective when it is an identifiable and structural
component in the decision-making process (Caron-Flinterman, Broerse, &
Bunders, 2007) and in the governance of the institution. Moreover, it should
be an ongoing activity, not an ad hoc exercise; participation should not be
switched on only when it is convenient to the organization. It has to allow for
unpredictable outcomes and real consequences and lead to some degree of
power sharing among the parties involved (Seifert, 2006).
Nowadays, SCMs have all the potential to be “level playing field” actors
in the governance of science, that is, at the same level as research organiza-
tions, patients’ associations, industry, government and nongovernmental
organizations, and so on. However, little is known about the mechanisms
used in SCMs to make sure not only that the various stakeholders get equal
opportunities to be heard but also that these mechanisms are transparent and
adequate accountability systems are present (Macdonald, 1998, 2002, 2010).
Bandelli and Konijn 423
It seems, therefore, that regardless of the “participatory turn” of the past
decade in the science and technology studies (Jasanoff, 2003), in their actual
operations, SCMs still suffer from structural obstacles, which prevent them
from effectively implementing public engagement and participation. As
Chittenden (2011) puts it, SCMs still represent a system that is “ephemeral
and unpredictable” (p. 1552).
Within the field of public engagement with science, there is a critical dis-
cussion about the existing gap between the public and science and the resis-
tance of certain science structures to accept and acknowledge the difference
that public participation can bring to methods, processes, and assumptions
(Delgado, Kjolberg, & Wickson, 2010; Wynne, 2007). SCMs can be instru-
mental, therefore, in increasing public access to science and making public
contributions to science governance more visible and meaningful.
If the public is involved in a structural way (i.e., participation becomes a
regular, ongoing, and integral activity in SCMs), we need to address the posi-
tion of the public in the decision-making process of the institution. Does the
public remain an informant, or does this structural involvement lead to situa-
tions where the public not only is a full-fledged stakeholder but also holds
decision-making power? How can we define the level of this involvement? In
the present article, we address the question of how open are SCMs to public
participation in their own governance, analyzing the current state in Europe
in view of their methods to involve the public in their decision-making pro-
cess and governance.
Museums already interact with several organizations that represent the
public, like government agencies, civil society (Janes, 2007), and community
organizations. These interactions often affect the museum governance, with
seats in the board, advisory groups, and similar instances. However, these
mechanisms are ruled by formal relationships at the institutional level
between the museum and the organizations representing the public, and the
interactions they entail are very different from those between the museum
and the general public. Access to the museum governance is conditional to
some form of “representation” of the public involved—either in the form of
belonging to an organization or bringing the agenda of a specific group to the
museum. In addition, several boards co-opt their members, reducing or in
fact blocking the bottom-up participation of the public in these structures.
This is the “institutional public” in the governance of SCMs.
In the present article, we will focus instead on the public defined as indi-
viduals who interact with the museum or science center in their personal
capacity, that is, not because of their institutional roles. In our study, the
public may be visitors or users, members or tourists, or “nonvisitors” who do
424 Science Communication 35(4)
not (yet) see the museum as a meaningful and relevant institution. The defin-
ing aspect is that we look at how a relationship is built between SCMs and
individual members of the public. Participation in the governance requires
building trust between the museum and the public—it is arguably not a role
for the casual visitor who comes to the museum only once. There are several
instances where casual visitors provide input to a museum though: Evaluation
studies rely on this, and so do many “visitor voices” projects (McLean &
Pollock, 2007). But taking part in a structural way to the decision-making
process and the governance of SCMs requires an understanding of the issues
at stake, which can only be achieved with an ongoing interaction between the
parties involved. Nevertheless, this relationship can start from a casual visit,
if the visitor sees the museum as an open organization that supports and
empowers the role of the public in the democratic society.
To define the tools and mechanisms for public participation used in SCMs,
we used in-depth, semistructured, qualitative interviews with four levels of
museum staff: (a) board members, (b) directors, (c) middle staff (managers,
content developers, education officers, etc.), and (d) floor staff/explainers.
Each interview covered three areas:
Who has decision-making power in the museum?
Is the public involved in the decision-making process?
Are there structural barriers and obstacles in implementing public
participation in the decision-making process of SCMs?
We identified a theoretical sample (Strauss & Corbin, 1998) of five SCMs
located in Western Europe (with a geographical distribution from
Scandinavian to Mediterranean countries). In a theoretical sample, the cases
are chosen to fill theoretical categories and to provide examples of extreme
situations and polar types (Eisenhardt, 1989). We looked, therefore, for a
broad variety in terms of the history of the institution, size, dominance posi-
tion and competition, exhibition techniques, and funding mechanisms.
Furthermore, we relied on the availability of additional documents and
reports and on professional knowledge of the field to identify the institutions
that would fit our purposes most. However, the institutions were not chosen
to be representative of the science center field in Europe, nor do they represent
“success stories” of public participation.
Bandelli and Konijn 425
The institutions in the sample range from small (with less than 10 persons
on staff) to very large (in excess of 500 staff members) and include very recent
institutions (2 years since opening to the public) to old ones (150 years). Four
institutions have collections (historical objects, specimens, or exhibits), while
one does not have any permanent collection and organizes only temporary
exhibitions and programs. All the institutions in the sample have a board,
which has been either publicly or privately appointed; have one or more levels
of staff; and have one or more directors responsible for the management of the
organization (when more directors were available, we interviewed those
responsible for the public engagement or exhibitions).
In the following text, the five institutions selected (and the corresponding
staff interviewed) are referred to with fictional names in order to guarantee
the anonymity of the institutions and their staff. We named the institutions as
follows: The Central, The Metropolitan, The Tower, The Grand, and The
Data Collection
The interviews (in all, 22 in-depth face-to-face interviews of about 1.5 hours
duration each) were collected between September 2008 and December 2009,
and all were recorded and transcribed. In addition to the interviews, other
documents were used during the analysis:
Mission statements
Organization charts
Annual reports, evaluation reports, press releases, and newsletter
articles regarding the institutions
Related personal communication with the interviewees and other
members of the staff
The data were analyzed with techniques for developing grounded theory
(Glaser & Strauss, 1967; Strauss & Corbin, 1998), conceptualizing and
reducing the results of the interviews into common categories, and finding
relationships across them.
Our analysis looks at how SCMs organize their decision-making process and
the contributions from the public and provides an overview of the current
barriers and best practices to include the public in the institutional decision-
making processes.
426 Science Communication 35(4)
In SCMs, there are multiple decision-making holders: Typically, this
power is divided among the board, the director, and the staff (Bandelli et al.,
2009). There are limitations to this model, however: For instance, institutions
and decision makers will have their own decision-making style, affecting
how decisions are taken, regardless of who takes them (e.g., autocracy, con-
sultation, consensus, democracy, etc.). These styles are influenced by the
organizational culture of each institution and by the personalities of the peo-
ple involved in the decision-making process. There are also differences
within each of the three categories in the model. On one hand, for example,
some institutions have more than one board (with separate responsibilities for
legal and scientific issues) and more directors, often with unclear boundaries
regarding the decision-making power of these bodies. On the other hand,
even within the staff, the level of decision-making power depends on many
factors, some formal (e.g., hierarchical position or longevity in the institu-
tion) and some informal (e.g., the level of personal trust gained among col-
leagues or the person’s acknowledged expertise in a specific domain). Finally,
the legal status of an organization is reflected in its governance and therefore
in its decision-making process. Nevertheless, this model captures the main
categories of actors involved in the decision-making process and provides a
level of abstraction suitable to be used as an analytical tool to describe an
otherwise complex situation. We used this division to analyze the responses
of our sample, looking at the role of the board, the director, and the staff as
decision makers.
What Are the Current Processes of Decision Making in Science
The board. The board provides a general and strategic governance struc-
ture to steer the institution rather than acting as an actual decision maker. The
board provides the legal framework for decisions that are already being taken
by the institution and has, in fact, a role more often as informant than as deci-
sion maker. When it does take decisions, it is usually because of legal require-
ments. The board sets the “boundaries” within which the institution operates
and confirms (often for legal and financial reasons) the choices that the
institution—mainly through its director—brings to its attention.
The director. The role of the director as a decision maker on the other hand
is much more variegated, and its actual role in the decision-making process
of the institution varies considerably among the institutions surveyed. Small
institutions allow for more democratic processes, whereas staff in large insti-
tutions tend to complain about the fact that these processes are often tactical
Bandelli and Konijn 427
(deciding who does what and when) rather than strategic. The director is seen
as a “broker” for the different stakeholders and as the one who can give legiti-
macy to internal and external pressures. Directors, however, are not at all the
unquestioned decision makers, and they can be bypassed in their decisions.
The most frequently recurring reasons given are those of internal personali-
ties that do not accept the institutional framework, time line, or protocol
for the development of new initiatives and of conflicts with the budget con-
straints and control bodies.
The staff. In many respects, the staff has a weaker role in the decision-
making process than the board or the director. One common observation
across all institutions is the fact that staff decisions are easily overruled by
opportunism decided outside of the process: The two reasons most often
mentioned are political pragmatism and the influence of sponsors in steering
the development of activities and projects. Two situations are reported in
which the role of the staff in the actual decision-making process is clearer.
One is the role of the staff as “gatekeepers” of the contact with the public.
When the public is consulted to provide input about a certain activity of the
museum, the staff has in fact the power to “frame” this interaction—even if it
is not charged with actual decision-making power.
What we try to do is to bring to the table what [we think] the visitors
need, not necessarily what they [say they] want. And this is an impor-
tant thing. In the decision-making process of the museum we are a
powerful influential voice, but that’s it, we are an influential voice but
we are not making decisions. (Tower Manager 1)
The second case reporting a more clarified role of the staff in the actual
decision-making process is when a member of the staff has an acknowledged
“independent” position within the organization. Usually, this means a certain
expertise or a role that is well defined and can be carried out autonomously.
In this situation, the staff is charged with a higher level of trust, and their
decisions are easily implemented.
In conclusion, it appears that the staff is charged with decision-making
power only when they have certain skills and competencies to lead a given
process. In the other instances, the director acts both as a negotiator between
the different informants/stakeholders and as a guarantor of the legitimacy of
the decision-making process. The board provides mostly a higher level of
guarantee and a framework for long-term institutional strategies. Of interest
is that the decisions of both the staff and the directors are regularly “bent” in
order to accommodate other decision makers; this is generally experienced as
428 Science Communication 35(4)
a frustrating “bypass” of the procedure, because it happens without transpar-
ency and argumentation.
Are There Methods and Strategies to Include the Public in the
Decision-Making Processes in Science Centers?
The interviewees were asked to list the stakeholders of the institution where
they work. Table 1 and Figure 2 show the percentage of the answers given
by each category of respondents (in parentheses the number of respondents
is shown—18 out of the 22 interviewees answered this question).
The stakeholders most frequently mentioned are the public (intended as
visitors to the science center), the national and local governments, universi-
ties, scientists, and the industry. Teachers and schools follow, together with
associations and civil society, media, donors, and the trustees or board of the
museum. The results suggest that the SCMs surveyed see as their stakehold-
ers the very same actors that are most involved in the governance of science—
notably the government, civil society, universities, industry, and the
public—which reinforces the view that SCMs have all the potential to be
active players in this arena.
As was expected, SCMs are currently still experimenting with strategies
and methods to include the public in the definition of their activities and in
their decision making. We did not find any well–worked out strategies in this
regard, although the work done so far clearly highlights the priorities and the
dilemmas faced when the public is included in a more structural way.
One common understanding across all the institutions interviewed is that
adults are the key public who can contribute in a substantial way to a more
relevant definition of the content and the role of SCMs. The knowledge that
the adult public can provide must however fit within the mission of the insti-
tution and its responsibility to provide reliable information:
The whole institution is getting caught up in this sort of dichotomy,
which is either they—the public—lead everything you do, and then we
don’t have any voice, or “we have to tell”—but actually it’s a mix,
people want to operate within the framework of an organization that
they know is a voice of authority. Our responsibility is to provide
authenticated information, good quality data, intelligent knowledge,
facilitate all those things as well, but also to enable knowledge, experi-
ences, and different perspectives to be applied, to ultimately build on
the body of knowledge. (Rover Director)
Table 1. Museum Stakeholders as Mentioned by the Intervieweesa
Schools Trustees
Government University Teachers
(Visitors) Media Donors Scientists
Civil Society Industry
Board (2) 100 50 50 50 50
Directors (5) 20 100 80 60 40 60 20 40 40 40 60
Staff (11) 45 10 65 55 55 35 65 20 10 35 30 35
a. All values are in percentages.
430 Science Communication 35(4)
At the same time, it is also clear that the public’s contribution lies espe-
cially in the social and experiential domains; however, this creates a strategic
problem with the way SCMs generate value. SCMs are still measured in
terms of the number of their visitors, not because of the social value they help
build together with their public. After a visitor pays the entrance ticket, he or
she becomes a statistical number for the museum. The tools that can quantify
what the public brings to the museum, such as comment cards, guest books,
and the many tools described in the Visitor Voices literature (Gammon &
Mazda, 2000; Livingstone, Pedretti, & Soren, 2001; McLean & Pollock,
2007; Pedretti & Soren, 2003), are not acknowledged outside the profes-
sional field of museums as instruments to assess the value of museums
(M. L. Anderson, 2004): The leading indicator is usually the number of visi-
tors and in some cases the income generated by the institution, or the number
of temporary exhibitions.
One strategy that is being increasingly adopted is the direct involvement
of the public in building alternative “story lines” to an exhibition or a pro-
gram. A structural way to do so is by exposing the epistemological method
used by the museum to build an exhibition and “codevelop” the exhibition
from the beginning with the public:
While you’re doing the research phase, you can encourage the audi-
ence to give their feedback and you can embed it in the exhibition. It’s
Figure 2. Museum stakeholders as mentioned by the interviewees.
Bandelli and Konijn 431
not like “here’s the exhibition, we’re finished, tell us what you think
and leave your comments,” it’s more like “here’s the research, tell us
what you think while we’re doing that,” because that might be quite
different from what you get once the exhibition is done. (Tower
Manager 1)
A similar approach is also mentioned by another institution in the sample,
with a specific mention of using web-based technology to “add a seat to the
table” during the development process for a new exhibition. This kind of
involvement seems to be more effective for broadening the relevance of the
institution than for opening up the content already on the floor to the com-
ments of the public. In both of these approaches, public participation becomes
part of an integral method within the institution instead of being a “feature”
added at a later stage after the content has been researched and developed.
There is, however, a perceived limit to this approach: Sooner or later, the
public involved in this early stage of development starts to assimilate the
institutional culture of the museum and will lose the perspectives for which
they were originally consulted.
The difficulty in the process is to ensure that the people you are talking
to remain representative of the issues that you need to overcome for all
the visitors and don’t become either individual advocates of what they
would personally like, or become “museum people.” And I do think
that by involving people in the process, there is a point where they
become museum people. So that’s the difficulty. (Tower Manager 2)
The direct involvement of the public in the development process of pro-
grams and activities requires a more “layered” perspective to public segmen-
tation, considering psychographic variables that are currently not exploited
by SCMs. In addition to the demographic data about visitors currently avail-
able to museums, the interviewees mentioned the need to describe in more
detail attitudes, values, interests, and lifestyle of their public in order to better
understand the motivations and expectations of the public involved in this
In this way, it would be easier to identify and work together with the
groups of collectors, scholars, and amateurs who want to share their passion
for science, for instance, and to engage with the fast-growing field of citizen
science (Bonney et al., 2009; Meyer, 2008). Furthermore, the role of the
“friends of the museum” and members as brokers to reach new publics cur-
rently absent from museums (e.g., university students and immigrants) can be
further considered. Members and friends are very committed publics who not
432 Science Communication 35(4)
only support the institution financially but are in most cases also “ambassa-
dors” of the institution within their circle of friends, colleagues, and acquain-
tances. They value the museum and are usually well informed about its
activities. Our interviewees agreed that this is a public where SCMs could
invest more, offering members and friends a more active role in the develop-
ment of programs and activities in order to better address the needs of their
circles of acquaintances.
Finally, another strategy that is being developed is the definition of profes-
sional profiles among the staff to include the public’s voice in the content of
the museum. Two methods to do so emerged from our analysis. One is to
have “audience advocates” who represent the public internally in the institu-
tion. This approach can allegedly be afforded only by large institutions and
remains a project-based approach, and thus it is not structurally integrated
(Koutsika, 2006).
The other method is to empower the staff to become social agents in order
to harvest the political and social role that SCMs can play to strengthen the
scientific citizenship of their public (Elam & Bertilsson, 2003; Irwin, 2001).
This requires a considerable effort on the side of the staff who must be able
to access professional development opportunities in the field of science com-
munication theory and social studies and translate this knowledge into pro-
grams and activities for the SCM.
We can refer to Bauman’s concept of liquid society—in fact, we live
in a world where everything is liquid, there are only fears, and you
have to communicate that science doesn’t give answers, but is a tool to
give answers and live better. What is important for us is not the number
of visitors or the exhibits, but the quality of the staff we have. Science
centers, compared to traditional museums, changed a lot and became
“living” places. Today it’s necessary to make a new step forward.
Those who work in a science center must be able to build scenarios and
projects about the future with a capacity to self-interrogate about what
can be done. (Grand Board)
In conclusion, SCMs are trying out different strategies to move from being
only content providers to being places that support the two dimensions of
scientific citizenship: scientific competence and actual participation (Horst,
2007; Mejlgaard & Stares, 2009). While providing scientific competence to
their public is a task SCMs have always embraced, implementing actual par-
ticipation is seen as a necessary but still uneasy activity.
Bandelli and Konijn 433
What Are the Barriers and Obstacles That Limit or Prevent Public
Participation in Museums?
The current barriers and obstacles that prevent a structural participation of
the public in the decision-making process of SCMs are several, and all the
interviewed subjects—with no exception—identified at least one that affects
their work directly, and in many cases several more.
From the point of view of the staff and directors, the barriers and obstacles
are either internal (i.e., the source of the problem is identified and originating
from within the institution) or external (i.e., public participation is made dif-
ficult or impossible by problems lying outside of the institution). At the same
time, these barriers may be controllable (i.e., the staff has identified methods
and solutions to address the problem, even if their implementation may be
difficult) or uncontrollable (i.e., the solution to the problem is beyond the
remit and possibilities of the staff).
We analyzed the stated barriers and obstacles alongside the two indicated
axes: internal/external and controllable/noncontrollable. The resulting matrix
(see Figure 3) allows us to define four categories of barriers.
Institutional barriers. Institutional barriers are conflicts between the estab-
lished practices of the institution and the process of change necessary to
include the public in the governance of the institution. These conflicts usually
originate from different understandings within the institutions and in the field
at large about the social role of SCMs. They are still commonly perceived as
establishments where knowledge is displayed and offered to the public rather
than places where knowledge is constantly generated, questioned, discussed,
Internal External
Institutional barriers Fear
Professional development Reaching the public
Figure 3. Barriers and obstacles to a structural participation of the public in the
decision-making process of science museums.
434 Science Communication 35(4)
and improved. This is not only an internal institutional problem but also a
consequence of a poor recognition and visibility of SCMs among other cul-
tural institutions. The value of a museum or science center is still largely
measured by the number of its visitors, but this measure obfuscates other
important roles and functions. A board member’s comment clearly describes
the uneasiness of science centers in this regard, when the entertainment and
leisure goals of the institution take over the concept of “science citizenship”
that science centers aim to foster:
Science centers have betrayed Frank Oppenheimer’s original idea
when he founded the Exploratorium, which was to give everybody
ownership of complicated science concepts, and have become instead
places were there is an excess of simplification and popularization.
Science centers must now regain a new level of experimentation, the
science center as a place in the city, by the citizens, where serious
things are done. In an entertaining and playful way, but doing serious
things. (Grand Board)
The professionals in the field also share concerns on the lack of innovation
in science centers and on the difficulties to capitalize on the experience of
innovative projects:
The European projects have been opportunities to do something we
would have never been able to do, in terms of themes or in terms of
methodologies, like participatory tools where the public can contribute
to our development. It’s been a very innovative process, but we are not
able to capitalize on this innovation to change our own programs. You
need new competencies, new dynamics, which are different—and
often absent—from the skills you normally have in an organization.
(Grand Manager 1)
Another institutional barrier is the lack of transparency of the internal
decision-making protocols and the opportunism of certain decisions,
described above when referring to the “bypassing” of decisions by the direc-
tors and the staff. This barrier is twofold: On one hand, it prevents the devel-
opment of participatory methods for the public because it is unclear at which
stage and with which actors within the institution the public can effectively
interact; on the other hand, when the public is invited to contribute to the
decision-making process, the lack of transparency creates internal opportunities
to bypass or ignore the contributions of the public itself, weakening therefore
Bandelli and Konijn 435
the relationship and the trust between the institution and the public and con-
fusing the roles of the public (and of the staff) in this process.
Lack of professional development. The lack of professional development
about the methods, tools, and purposes to include the public in the decision-
making process of museums is a major weakness on which all the staff inter-
viewed agree. There is a lack of documentation and research on this subject,
and the museums themselves rely mostly on anecdotal evidence and personal
insights to better listen to and understand the public (Mayfield, 2004). A
problem outlined by several staff is that it is still very difficult to get “unbi-
ased” feedback from the public: Usually, it is only the most enthusiastic pub-
lic and the most disappointed one who take the effort to communicate their
views with the museum. During a regular visit, the only member of the staff
most people come in contact with is the ticket seller (when this function still
exists). There is a structural lack of opportunities for the public to actually
interact with the staff working at SCMs; and even when explainers or educa-
tors are available, they are not always well prepared to interact effectively
with the public (Tran & King, 2007).
Alongside the problems of “listening” to the public, there is also the prob-
lem of making use of what is learnted from the public, which means exposing
the social and political values of that information:
We are struggling with how we represent the public’s opinions on
issues of contemporary science to other people so that it makes a dif-
ference. It’s about whom do you represent that viewpoint to, and get
people to take it seriously. There’s a nervousness about people’s
expectations of what actually happens with that information that at the
moment doesn’t get reflected back in the museum. We haven’t found
any real successful way moving that to a sort of political level saying
“we’ve got so many people through the door and they are not happy
with this sort of research or they are uncomfortable with that.” How do
you lobby that, or how do you get that taken seriously, if that is what
we want to do? (Tower Manager 1)
This quotation exemplifies the stride between the ambition of SCMs as a
field to bring public opinions into decision-making processes (as stated in the
Cape Town declaration, see Note 2) and the uncertainties when the institu-
tions try to implement methods to incorporate these opinions into actual
Quite often the activities where the public could provide feedback and
interact with the museum (and its floor staff) are developed without a real
436 Science Communication 35(4)
consciousness of this process and a lack of knowledge of the current and
potential interactions that take place between the public and the SCM:
The cultural gap between those who develop and those who implement
the activities is a major problem. Their experience on the floor (of
those who now sit in the office) is from 6-8 years ago, now the public
is different, you can’t develop the same things. You really need to
observe what goes on. There isn’t a real “osmosis” between the man-
agement and the staff on the floor. Certainly, now some managers
spend time on the floor, they see what goes on: But they don’t wear our
clothes, so to speak. (Grand Explainer)
This gap between those who develop the activities and those who imple-
ment them and interact with the public is also relevant to collection-based
Traditionally, there has been more of a “the curators are the font of all
knowledge,” you should be grateful that they’ve put something out there,
the object is king, that sort of stuff. There has been a lack of understand-
ing in that team that just putting something out there doesn’t mean you
are engaging in any way, you have to give it more work, and that the
visitors genuinely are not like you, in lots of ways. (Tower Manager 2)
But it is not only the attitude of the staff or the cultural gap that constitutes
a barrier for a deeper interaction with the public; the working methods of the
staff, which rely almost completely on paper and written documents, are also
responsible for this. One of the common concerns is that this way of working
is unable to fully capture and describe the multiple and increasingly partici-
patory languages (video, interactive and social media, etc.) that the public is
used to nowadays in daily life.
Difficulties in reaching specific publics. Our interviewees all express that if
science centers want to involve the public in their decision-making and gov-
ernance process, they need to target and work with small groups, usually over
a longer time than the usual interaction with an exhibit. The public that can
be engaged with these activities is also a niche group, much more segmented
than the “general public” that museums broadly address. This is an issue that
creates a series of barriers for the current way science centers operate. The
first one is a stride between this definition of the public and the way the
majority of visitors experience the museum:
Bandelli and Konijn 437
Visitors don’t want to spend one hour on an activity when there are
other hundreds available. A science center is still seen by many people
like a “grab and go” activity, where you try something and you move
to the next. (Grand Manager 2)
For many visitors, therefore, being involved in a deeper conversation
about why and how the museum is dealing with a certain topic is something
against their expectations of the visit. And when the public wants to be
engaged in such an activity, it is the museum that struggles to frame this
Events for small groups are expensive and we don’t get any money, on
the contrary, we have to spend money to support them. There is a big
value in what we learn from these events—knowledge that we would
have otherwise paid for. But we’re not used to think this way yet.
(Central Manager 1)
Audience-led programs are very staff intensive, and it is quite difficult
to demonstrate whether they are making any real long-term difference.
You may attract people and audiences for that event, I’m not sure there
is any real evidence to show that when you’ve got them for that event
they’ll come back for anything else. (Tower Manager 1)
Another important barrier is the fact that not everybody wants or cares to
engage with the museum. Or, even better, not everybody thinks they care to
engage with the museum. There are still many misconceptions and false
expectations (on both sides, museum staff and the public) about what SCMs
should do and stand for that prevent potentially interested people to approach
or be approached by the museum and establish a deeper interaction. For
instance, many science centers are considered by the public opinion as places
for children, where only a certain kind of simple and entertaining science is
dealt with.
As explained above, selected publics are particularly suitable to be
engaged in the decision-making process of SCMs—not only amateurs and
collectors but also people who have gained formal or informal knowledge
about certain issues (e.g., activists). However, the main concern expressed by
the sample is that many of the “triggers” that could engage these publics have
a much lower visibility than the core activity of the museum, that is, the
438 Science Communication 35(4)
Fear of public controversy and of institutional change. The fear of changing
existing practices plays a major role against the development of new partici-
patory methods, according to the interviewed. Whereas other barriers and
obstacles are rather well identified and can be addressed with experiments
and exploratory actions, fear is an irrational block that can prevent further
action and that is difficult to tackle directly. For most institutions, the major
fear is of controversy in the public opinion:
We want to keep our existing public, kids, and we know what works
for them, so we don’t have an incentive to change. And then there is a
fear of exposing yourself to criticism, discussion, reactions from the
public opinion. The institution wants to avoid it. (Grand Explainer)
We need some way of representing, in a really obvious way, where
different pieces of content are coming from. This is a piece that’s been
written by the museum, this is a piece that the public contributed, this
is a piece that an expert in the field has written, but it’s a personal
opinion, it’s not the museum’s opinion. We’re all thinking about how
that might happen, we are all excited by the fact that it may be possible
to do that, but also are worried that we might get it horrendously
wrong, and that might be more damaging than not doing anything at
all. (Tower Manager 1)
Internal fears also exist—internal opposition to changing the way of work-
ing, because people feel less secure when confronted with methods they are
not familiar with. For example, when talking about the fact that scientists,
developers, managers, and directors should spend more time in direct contact
with the public, one director said,
My colleagues theoretically say it, but they don’t do it. I want them out
there on the floor, in direct contact, and it’s not something they do. So
our organization is interesting, intellectually all of this they will get,
but in their heart sometimes it’s a long way because it’s a personal
thing. (Rover Director)
Thus, just like scientists, who easily revert to a “one-way education to a
deficit public” (S. R. Davies, 2008, p. 430), the museum staff tends also to
fall back to one-way communication rather than challenging their established
way of working.
Bandelli and Konijn 439
Toward a Public Model of Governance?
We do not claim that the results of our analysis can be generalized to the
whole field of SCMs: Given the variety and diversity of institutions that
belong to the field, it would be very hard to design a research project to sus-
tain such a claim. However, we built our sample in such a way as to guaran-
tee a wide applicability of the results, in terms of both institutional structures
and range of activities. The organizations in our sample were carefully
selected to portray a variety of approaches to public participation and of
governance structures, ranging from small and dynamic organization to more
traditional, big museums. Even across such diversity of institutional settings,
we found several common issues, problems, and strategies that are indicative
of a large part of the professional field of SCMs.
Our research highlighted a number of mechanisms for the public to be
“heard” by the decision makers. In all cases, however, the public appears to
be an informant to the decision makers, who filter and act on the contribu-
tions of the public rather than negotiate such contributions with the public.
There are instances where the public gives a direct and personal contribution
to the decision-making process (e.g., by taking part to the codevelopment of
exhibitions or audience-led projects). However, these situations do not lead
to an actual sharing of authority with the public, since the contribution of the
public is filtered and mediated by the staff or by reports, summaries of events,
media reports, and so on. We found the most instances of unfiltered contribu-
tions by the public in the situations where the staff has decision-making
power, and it can therefore hand it over to the public; however, as described
above, these are not structural in the institution but are limited to one-off
events and are incidental to the whole institutional decision-making process.
Therefore, it is still very difficult to find a “public model” of decision
making, in which the public is charged with direct decision-making power
and the other actors such as director, board, staff, and other stakeholders act
as informants for the decisions that the public makes (Bandelli et al., 2009).
Such a model can be found, thus far, only in the plans for a more transparent
development process that opens up the epistemological nature of the process
(as described in section “Are There Methods and Strategies to Include the
Public in the Decision-Making Processes in Science Centers?”). The main
question is therefore whether such a model can be implemented in a museum,
and what would be the consequences. This question is particularly significant
today in light of the current developments in the field of science and technology
440 Science Communication 35(4)
studies and the public engagement with science that argue for a more direct
and structural participation of the public in the governance of science (Horst
& Irwin, 2009; Irwin, 2006; Wynne, 2007). Our interviewees, however, men-
tioned examples of mechanisms where the participation of the public is start-
ing to become structural within the organization. Such projects and activities
include “discussion games” such as PlayDecide (Bandelli & Konijn, 2011;
Parisse-Brassens, 2009), citizen science projects where the public contributes
to scientific research with observations and simple analysis of data (Bonney
et al., 2009), “fair” or festival events that bring scientists and researchers in
direct contact with the public, community-specific projects (e.g., the involve-
ment of ethnic groups or teenagers in the planning and development of pro-
grams and exhibitions), forums and policy advice meetings (Bell, 2008),
codesign of exhibitions (S. M. Davies, 2010), and “science live” research
experiments on the museum floor.
All these activities are fairly recent, and with the exception of science
festivals and citizen science projects, they have been consistently employed
only during the past 3 to 4 years. Even if no institution, to our knowledge, has
a policy in place to use these approaches for the development of new activi-
ties and programs, all the organizations in our sample agree that these best
practices constitute a solid base to become structural instruments.
Implementing Two-Way Communication in the Governance of
Science Museums
The move from the “public understanding of science” to the “public engage-
ment with science” has shown that, on one hand, we have a much stronger
integration between science, governance, and the public today than previ-
ously. On the other hand, there is still a wide gap between these new forms
of scientific governance and the actual culture of science and the scientific
governance (Irwin, 2006). Our research shows that in the case of SCMs too,
there is still a disconnect between the rhetoric of public participation (argu-
ing for a direct participation of the public in the choices and decisions pro-
cesses) and the actual practice; about the same was observed by scholars
such as Irwin, Wynne, and Hagendijk (Hagendijk, 2004; Hagendijk & Irwin,
2006; Irwin, 2006; Wynne, 2006, 2007). Also for SCMs, the main obstacle
for a transformation from a “deficit” model to a democratic one is the change
of institutional practices and the cultural and epistemological assumptions
behind them.
The key factor under the institutional control to achieve this change is the
“framing” of the interaction with the public, in terms of both reaching the
Bandelli and Konijn 441
public(s) to be engaged and having appropriate professional skills to manage
such interactions. Wynne (2007) makes an important distinction between
invited and uninvited publics: The former in fact usually suffer from a “pater-
nalistic” approach (or tokenism) from the side of the science institutions,
which frame the dialogue leaving little room for actual contributions from the
public that can challenge the top-down models of governance. It is our under-
standing that so far SCMs are mostly dealing with invited publics, framing
the discussions in ways that are instrumental to maintaining established prac-
tices and approaches (Lynch, 2011).
However, uninvited publics can bring true innovation to the governance
structures, even though they require new strategies to reach them and a new
positioning of the museum in regard to its stakeholders, highlighting its role
as a “broker” between different constituencies rather than as a content pro-
vider (Horst, 2011; Horst & Michael, 2011). It is in this new role that SCMs
can demonstrate their (until now arguable) neutrality, not of the content they
present but rather of the openness of a process that allows the questions of the
public to be formulated and raised, questions that are often more far-reaching
than those allowed or foreseen by the current engagement frameworks.
The current modalities of public engagement in SCMs that we found in
our research also confirm the ambiguities that exist in describing and defin-
ing the publics in public engagement exercises (Felt & Fochler, 2010). Of
relevance to museums is the fact that the “mini publics” that do take part in
the initiatives have an ambivalent relationship with the “general public.” This
means that depending on the design of the participation exercise, the repre-
sentational value of these publics is dubious: They neither feel representa-
tives of a general public nor feel even qualified to take part in such exercises.
For SCMs, this means coming to terms with a modality of public engagement
that values dissensus rather than consensus and the acceptance of inequalities
of knowledge among the public (Tlili & Dawson, 2010).
Our research has identified two weaknesses that prevent public participa-
tion from happening: (a) the lack of appropriate evaluation and assessment
methods to measure the contributions of the public to the decision-making
process in SCMs and (b) the lack of recognition of SCMs as important play-
ers in the field of science governance. These two factors are intrinsically
related: Because of the lack of reliable instruments to illustrate the impor-
tance of what the public can bring to the museum (rather than of what the
public learns from the museum), SCMs are not able to demonstrate their role
in the larger field of science governance. Furthermore, because SCMs are
still seen only as “ancillary” informal learning institutions, lacking recogni-
tion from the other stakeholders, they do not invest in methods to qualify (and
442 Science Communication 35(4)
possibly quantify) their role as brokers in mediating the science and society
dialogue. This “impasse” was recently experienced in the United Kingdom,
when the formal exercise to assess the effectiveness of science centers in sup-
porting the science and society agenda concluded that there was not enough
evidence to draw a definitive conclusion (Frontier Economics, 2009).
Additionally, the response from the field still lacks concrete methods and
measures that help understand what the public can contribute to the science
centers in particular and to the science and society agenda in general (U.K.
Association for Science and Discovery Centres, 2010).
While the overarching problem of establishing a more trustworthy rela-
tionship between science museums and the public remains a complex one,
there are some actions that museums can put in place to address it.
The first is the formulation and implementation of detailed psychographic
indicators and activity and commitment indicators for the public. This would
help identify the characteristics and needs of those publics that already see SCMs
as institutions to interact with rather than as a leisure or learning destination.
The second is to grant more agency and support to those structures within
the institution that are currently interacting with the public. We have observed
that the members of the staff in charge of the interaction with the public suf-
fer from three main limitations: lack of knowledge of science communication
theory, difficulty in properly exploiting the current exhibitions when they do
not include participatory elements and tools in their design, and a lack of a
clear position and mandate during the development process of new activities—
they are usually presented with a “fait accompli” on the museum floor with
which they have to deal.
SCMs have been pioneers in exploring and implementing methods to engage
the public with their programs and exhibitions. By communicating contempo-
rary science and research, however, many of these methods and the underlying
assumptions are challenged. The very nature of contemporary science requires
new rules for the engagement with the public, and SCMs experience this
change not only as an opportunity to strengthen their social role but also as a
series of obstacles to their usual practices. The current study addressed several
of them to increase the relevance of SCMs in the science and society arena.
The results of the current study highlight how several of these obstacles
can be brought within control of the institution. In particular, decreasing
institutional barriers and addressing the fear of negative reactions from exter-
nal stakeholders would bring the obstacles under control of the staff working
Bandelli and Konijn 443
with the public, thus enabling a more systematic interaction between the pub-
lic and the museum. Our study revealed a great awareness among the institu-
tions surveyed to move in this direction, as well as the agreement that enabling
a structural participation of the public in the museum’s governance would
strengthen not only the relevance of the museum but ultimately also its
While the position of SCMs is therefore quite clear, the same cannot be
said about the public yet. There are still many assumptions about the willing-
ness of the public to participate in the science and society dialogue, and in
particular through the engagement with SCMs. Therefore, we propose to
focus on efforts elucidating the relationship between museums and the pub-
lic. In addition to the existing studies on the learning and satisfaction of the
public, we argue that it is necessary to understand the other side of this rela-
tionship—that is, the actual contribution that the public is willing to bring to
the museum in terms of inputs, questions, proposals, and directions that ful-
fill and support a democratic science citizenship. Therefore, future research
could focus on the publics that interact with SCMs and explore how scien-
tific citizenship as proclaimed in current science and technology studies is
constructed in these institutions. With such knowledge, science centers will
be able to structure and define their role as active agents in the science and
society arena.
We are greatly indebted to the board members, directors, and staff for their time,
willingness, and openness to share their thoughts and ideas with us during the inter-
views for the present study. We are also particularly thankful to the anonymous
reviewers for their very valuable comments on this article and their insights and
Declaration of Conflicting Interests
The author(s) declared no potential conflicts of interest with respect to the research,
authorship, and/or publication of this article.
The author(s) received no financial support for the research, authorship, and/or pub-
lication of this article.
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Author Biographies
Andrea Bandelli is currently conducting PhD research at the VU University
Amsterdam, The Netherlands, on the role of the public in the governance of science
Elly A. Konijn is currently a Full Professor in the Department of Communication
Science, Faculty of Social Sciences, at the VU University Amsterdam. Her recent
research interests include the psychology of media, media entertainment, interper-
sonal communication, and media use among adolescents.
... In the strictly managerial sphere, public engagement is linked to the need for greater stakeholder involvement in the activities and in choosing organizations. There are many contributions present in the literature that, through qualitative and quantitative methodological approaches, illustrate theoretical experiences, best practices and frameworks (Bandelli and Konijn, 2013;Borum et al., 2017;Bruning et al., 2006;Curtis, 2014;Domegan, 2008;Hart and Northmore, 2011;Kim, 2007;Watermeyer, 2012Watermeyer, , 2016Watermeyer and Lewis, 2018). Studies on the subject converge towards the search for a unique definition of the phenomenon and the dimensions of the construct (Hart and Northmore, 2011) but little has been said about the nature of Public Engagement, its determinants, or the context in which it is studied (Davies, 2013a(Davies, , 2013bHart and Northmore, 2011;Watermeyer and Lewis, 2018). ...
... From a more nuanced perspective, public engagement refers to a process of individual and collective problem solving on aspects related to scientific research whose main characteristic lies precisely in the involvement of stakeholders during the decision-making process. And it is precisely this involvement that stimulates innovation and the search for useful solutions (Bandelli and Konijn, 2013;Boland, 2014;Capurro et al., 2015;Kim, 2007;Krabbenborg and Mulder, 2015;Watermeyer, 2016). This type of interpretative perspective focuses on the connector, that is, on the relational node capable of establishing a conjunction between the parties involved, thus making Public Engagement a process that will ensure the realization of a stable stakeholder participation. ...
... But public engagement also stimulates emotional and experiential aspects and raises one's level of personal satisfaction and enjoyment. In fact, science poles and museums serve as facilitators of public-scientist conversation and provide a valuable place for disseminating scientific content to the general public (Bandelli and Konijn, 2013;Chilvers, 2013;Denson and Bowman, 2013;Goldner and Golan, 2018;Miller et al., 2009;Wilkinson et al., 2011). Finally, public engagement, through the new online communication tools, facilitates the interaction between researchers, scientists and stakeholders, thus increasing accessibility, in particular for businesses, to the knowledge produced by scientists (Bandelli and Konijn, 2013;Chilvers, 2013;Denson and Bowman, 2013;Goldner and Golan, 2018;Miller et al., 2009;Wilkinson et al., 2011). ...
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Frame of the research: A managerial perspective of public engagement can help universities to strengthen the communication of university identity from a social, scientific, or accessibility point of view. Purpose of the paper: The goal of this paper is to investigate the concept of the online university public engagement from a managerial standpoint by examining those Italian universities that have engaged in Third Mission activities thanks also to recent ministerial decrees issued on the subject. Methodology: A content analysis of the main official websites of 50 Italian universities was performed. An exploratory factorial analysis made it possible to identify the main approaches to online public engagement. Findings: There are 4 main dimensions of online public engagement that have been communicated on Italian websites (social, cultural, research and widening engagement), each referring to a specific target. A so-called "Cultural engagement" approach emerges which underlines the role of the university as a pole of cultural and artistic attraction. Research limits: The research explores public engagement only in the Italian context. Although the article investigates more than 50% of the Italian universities, it does not allow the extension of the results to the reference population. Practical implications: Research results contribute to the understanding of online public engagement and map the current uses of stakeholder engagement activities in the university context to date. Originality of the paper: The research enriches the knowledge of the online public engagement construct thanks to the identification of a new dimension "Cultural engagement", that had not yet emerged in international contexts.
... Artists are linked to citizen sciences (citizens performing sciences) [108][109][110][111]. Artists are also involved in science and technology education as well as governance discussions [24,[112][113][114][115][116][117][118][119][120][121][122][123][124][125][126][127][128][129] and ethics [130][131][132][133][134], which fits in with a long history of literature that engaged with the topic of the social responsibility of artists [135][136][137][138][139][140][141][142] and artists as activists [143][144][145][146][147][148][149]. Artists are also involved in the increasing role of museums in science and technology education and discussions [150][151][152][153][154][155][156][157][158][159][160][161][162]. ...
... Museums play an increasingly important role in science and technology education and governance [150][151][152][153][154][155][156][157][158][159]. Science museums enable scientists, researchers, and other stakeholders to shape and negotiate their own images of the public and to become meaningful players in the dialogue between science and society [160]. Science, technology, and society studies highlight the role of museums in the domains of the education, dissemination, and communication of science, "leaving a gap about the role of SCMs [science centers and museums] as platforms to support public participation in science policy" [160] (p. ...
... Science museums enable scientists, researchers, and other stakeholders to shape and negotiate their own images of the public and to become meaningful players in the dialogue between science and society [160]. Science, technology, and society studies highlight the role of museums in the domains of the education, dissemination, and communication of science, "leaving a gap about the role of SCMs [science centers and museums] as platforms to support public participation in science policy" [160] (p. 421). ...
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Artists and the arts have many different roles in society. Artists also have various roles in relation to science and technology, ranging from being users of science and technology products to being educators for science and technologies, such as in museums. Artists are also involved in science and technology governance and ethics discussions. Disabled people are also artists and produce art, and disabled people in general and disabled artists are impacted by science and technology advancements. As such, disabled artists should also engage with science and technology, as well as contribute and influence science and technology governance, ethics discussions, and science and technology education with their work. We performed a scoping study of academic literature using the 70 databases of EBSCO-HOST and the database SCOPUS (includes Medline) to investigate the social role narrative of disabled artists and both their work in general and in relation to science and technology. Our findings suggest that disabled artists are mostly engaged in the context of becoming and being a disabled artist. Beyond the work itself, the identity issue of ‘being disabled’ was a focus of the coverage of being a disabled artist. The literature covered did not provide in-depth engagement with the social role of disabled artists, their work, and the barriers encountered, and best practices needed to fulfil the social roles found in the literature for non-disabled artists and the arts. Finally, the literature covered contained little content on the relationship of disabled artists and advancements of science and technology, such as in their role of using advancements of science and technologies for making art. No content at all was found that would link disabled artists and their work to the science and technology governance and ethics discussions, and no content linking disabled artists to being educators on science and technology issues, for example, in museums was found.
... Obstacles hindering value co-creation were identified at both the organizational and personal level (Bandelli and Konijn, 2013). Although individual projects varied across cases due to different thematic and organizational profiles of the investigated museums, the perception of the main barriers was largely convergent. ...
Purpose The study builds on the multi-stakeholder perspective and applies the DART model to frame and explore barriers to value co-creation in the museum context. Design/methodology/approach The empirical research followed a multiple case study design, based on six cases selected in accordance with a maximum variation strategy. The analysis of the data gathered from multiple primary and secondary sources was guided by the qualitative content analysis approach and the pattern-matching technique for a multiple case study. Findings The findings reveal a largely convergent understanding of value co-creation that relates to the social integration of the intrinsic value of museums. The main barriers to value co-creation were identified at both organizational and personal levels, yet important context-bound differences were found regarding the scope and impact of those barriers across defined museum activity areas. Originality/value The study enriches literature and museum management by identifying and synthesizing barriers, offering insights for overcoming them through DART model modifications. These insights extend beyond museums, emphasizing stakeholder identification, recognizing activity-specific barriers, understanding interdependence and considering external factors like the pandemic. Managers can leverage this knowledge for informed decisions and interventions.
... Moreover, although science museums aim to be more dialogic and participatory, such concepts may be understood quite differently and these differences may result in varying practices of enacting policies in specific institutions and exhibitions. National policies for science communication, as well as infrastructures for science-society relations, also play a vital role (Delicado 2009;Bandelli and Konijn 2013). As such, different approaches to science communication (by the respective museums or even exhibitions) may entail quite different goals: for example, to inform visitors about new research, to engage them in political debate about science, or to allow them to play with and explore natural phenomena explained by science -or a combination of these goals. ...
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Science museums have increasingly experimented with bringing art into their exhibitions to attract and engage visitors. While the prevalence and popularity of such experiments is growing, research on the rationales for collaboration and their outcomes, as well as the challenges involved, remains scarce. This paper analyzes and discusses how art is used as part of engaging visitors in two contrasting exhibitions about the brain and neuroscience: one using art as illustration of ready-made science, the other inviting artists as co-curators in evoking a feeling of science in the making. Drawing on models of public engagement and art-science collaboration, it discusses how notions of science communication and visitor engagement are imagined and enacted in the two exhibitions, and how they relate to different ‘logics’, or rationales, of interdisciplinary collaboration.
... ISE organizations knowingly or unknowingly hold the power for who is welcomed or not (ibid, p. 214). While there are good examples, the reality is that organizations still maintain power when calling the meetings and setting the agendas for collaborative work with communities (Bandelli & Konijn, 2013). With patterns of participation and access to ISE venues consistently narrow (white, middle class, cisgender), organizations are potentially reproducing the disadvantages that exist in the social systems in which they are a part. ...
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It’s never easy to realize that, despite good intentions, one’s efforts to be helpful may cause more harm. That is, in part, the reckoning the ISE field must address as we emerge from the global pandemic striving to do and be better. While there are instances and examples of educational work that exemplify our vision for equity, access, and inclusion, for the most part, ISE practice continues to operate within paradigms from the larger systems of society that perpetuate inequalities. We argue work towards the just and egalitarian goals in ISE organization’s equity and access statements fall short without the organization’s staff (the humans who do the work) engaging in critical consciousness together. Building on a model from youth development scholars, we advocate for the need to include humility, compassion, and belonging in critical consciousness. Without these components, unconscious biases shade people’s abilities to see the strengths in those different from them, to offer care to everyone (especially people who have been pushed into the margins), and to work towards ensuring everyone is rightfully welcomed, just as they are. Importantly, we must embody these ideas with our staff and in our work culture before we can genuinely practice them for our audiences. Doing so requires a mindset towards professional learning and reflective practice, and then intentionally designing and refining structures to support learning from individual staff into the collective organization.
... We also learned about the potential of existing infrastructures for dialogue. Some scholars see a role for science centers and museums as contributors to a culture of sustained dialogue about science and technology (see, for example, Bandelli and Konijn [43]). By closely collaborating with science centers in our roles as dialogue capacity builders during the NANO2ALL project, we gained valuable insights into the opportunities that science centers have and the barriers they have to overcome to carry out such a task. ...
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The progressive introduction of emerging technologies, such as nanotechnology, has created a true testing ground for public engagement initiatives. Widespread experimentation has taken place with public and stakeholder dialogue and inclusive approaches to research and innovation (R&I) more generally. Against this backdrop, Social Science and Humanities (SSH) scholars have started to manifest themselves differently. They have taken on new roles in the public engagement field, including more practical and policy-oriented ones that seek to actively open the R&I system to wider public scrutiny. With public engagement gaining prominence, there has been a call for increased reflexivity among SSH scholars about their role in this field. In this paper, we study our own roles and stakes as SSH scholars in a European-funded public engagement project on responsible nanotechnology. We introduce a general role landscape and outline five distinct roles (engaged academic , deliberative practitioner , change agent , dialogue capacity builder , and project worker) that we—as SSH scholars—inhabited throughout the project. We discuss the synergistic potential of combining these five roles and elaborate on several tensions within the roles that we needed to navigate. We argue that balancing many roles requires explicit role awareness, reflexivity, and new competencies that have not been examined much in the public engagement literature so far. Our role landscape and exemplification of how it can be used to reflexively study one’s own practices may be a useful starting point for scholars who are seeking to better understand, assess, or communicate about their position in the public engagement field.
... Desde hace más de dos décadas, los centros de ciencia (CC) se han convertido en los lugares de la comunicación de la ciencia y la tecnología por excelencia (Cossons, 2006;Delicado, 2009;Laspra-Pérez, 2013). Uno de los factores clave para lograr que el público sienta interés, motivación y confianza es el encuadre de la interacción con el público, tanto en términos de llegar a los diversos receptores, como el compromiso para desarrollar las habilidades profesionales adecuadas para gestionar dichas interacciones (Bandelli y Konijn, 2012). Para Sánchez Mora (2004) la relación directa de los mediadores a través de los diálogos con los ciudadanos busca la comprensión de los temas científicos, con el fin de propiciar el acercamiento a las ciencias, generar vocaciones, descubrir, experimentar y despertar los sentidos y las emociones. ...
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El artículo presenta las evidencias de conocimiento tácito de los mediadores cuando llevan a cabo la comunicación de la ciencia desde las variables de la cultura organizacional, las cualidades personales y las dimensiones destinadas al intercambio de saberes. Para obtener las certezas del saber ser y el saber hacer de los mediadores, hemos utilizado con ellos el método de entrevistas cara a cara, y definir así las diferentes categorías. La explicitación del conocimiento tácito sirve como guía para el diseño de estrategias que fortalecen la formación de las personas y fomentan el aprendizaje de los ciudadanos. Los centros que participaron en la investigación han sido Maloka, El Planetario Distrital, El Jardín Botánico de Medellín y el Jardín Botánico de Bogotá. Finalmente, se presenta una serie de consideraciones sobre el valor que tiene la codificación del conocimiento tácito, que hasta ese momento ha sido difícil de compartir por permanecer profunda y singularmente arraigado en la mente de las personas y, por ello, invisible; pero que de este modo aflora y sirve como insumo para, desde la mediación, ser de utilidad en la gestión de los centros de ciencia.
When engaging issues at the intersection of science and society, science centers, museums and other informal STEM learning organizations struggle to center perspectives of communities most often impacted by the unequal distribution of technologies' benefits and harms. Increasingly, participatory design is being utilized to do this, but the field must continue to refine methods for accessing the expertise of community partners and keeping it present across multiple design stages and products. We share a case study in which a multi‐institution project team, developing resources for educational programming around radio frequency technologies, worked with community design to establish a values foundation that could guide initial planning and ongoing development. We share design methods adapted from values sensitive design and equity‐centered research‐practice partnership, as well as insights relevant to enacting design practice that can build relational equity, leverage data across institutional boundaries, and span locations, platforms and levels of expertise.
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A presente pesquisa, de caráter exploratório associada à pesquisa bibliográfica, discute o acesso e a participação de crianças e adolescentes a museus, espaços científicos-culturais e ações de divulgação científica, tendo em vista seus direitos à educação, à cultura e ao lazer previstos no Estatuto da Criança e do Adolescente de 1990. Apesar de alguns progressos alcançados nos 30 anos da Lei, desigualdades persistem e são retratadas no texto. Iniciamos com uma reflexão pautada em leituras sobre a importância desses espaços no desenvolvimento da criança e do adolescente, seguida pela apresentação de dados da exclusão aos direitos fundamentais dessa faixa etária no Brasil. Posteriormente, trazemos resultados de pesquisas com vistas a construir argumentos que evidenciem as potencialidades, desafios e recomendações para o acesso e a participação de crianças e adolescentes nos museus, espaços científico-culturais e ações de divulgação científica, que fazem parte fundamental do seu desenvolvimento psicológico e intelectual.
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Exhibition Experiments is a lively collection that considers experiments with museological form that challenge our understanding of - and experience with - museums. Explores examples of museum experimentalism in light of cutting-edge museum theory. Draws on a range of global and topical examples, including museum experimentation, exhibitionary forms, the fate of conventional notions of 'object' and 'representation', and the impact of these changes. Brings together an international group of art historians, anthropologists, and sociologists to question traditional disciplinary boundaries. Considers the impact of technology on the museum space tackles a range of examples of experimentalism from many different countries, including Australia, Austria, Germany, Israel, Luxembourg, Sweden, the UK and the US. Examines the changes and challenging new possibilities facing museum studies.
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What goes on behind the closed doors at museums? How are decisions about exhibitions made and who, or what, really makes them? Why are certain objects and styles of display chosen whilst others are rejects, and what factors influence how museum exhibitions are produced and experienced? This book answers these searching questions by giving a privileged look 'behind the scenes' at the Science Museum, London. By tracking the history of a particular exhibition, Macdonald takes the reader into the world of the museum curator and shows in vivid detail how exhibitions are created and how public culture is produced. She reveals why exhibitions do not always reflect their makers' original intentions and why visitors take home particular interpretations. Beyond this 'local' context, however, the book also provides broad and far-reaching insights into how national and global political shifts influence the creation of public knowledge through exhibitions.
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Participation of end users in decision-making on science is increasingly practiced, as witnessed by the growing body of scientific literature on case evaluations. In the biomedical field, however, end-user participation in decision-making is rare. Some scholars argue that because patients are stakeholders and relevant experts, they could also provide important contributions to decision-making within the field of biomedical research. But what strategies could be used to effectively implement patient participation in decision-making on biomedical research? In this article, we analyze strategies for patient participation and conclude that these can hardly be regarded effective because they do not ensure patients' structural influence on decision-making. We identify obstacles for effective patient participation, which seem to reflect a resilience of the current biomedical decision-making network. We subsequently elaborate on the concept of transition management in the search for clues on how to breach this resilience and change the network toward the inclusion of patients.
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In this paper, we present a study of Science and Technology Studies (STS) perspectives on public engagement, specifically focusing on the gap between theory and practice. In aiming to develop a conceptual map of this gap, we identify five top topics of tension. These are related to the general questions of: “Why should we do public engagement?,” “Who should be involved?,” “How should it be organised?,” “When should it be done?” and “Where should it be grounded?” We employ nanotechnology as a paradigmatic case to help us explore these tensions. In practice, the choices one makes in relation to one topic of tension may influence the choices available for others. Enhanced awareness of the presence of these tensions, as well as their interconnections, can help build reflexive capacity and make visible the various alternative routes available for STS practitioners working in the “age of engagement.”
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If the rhetoric pervading much of recent academic and policy discourse is to be taken at face value, engaging the public in the governance of science has become a kind of gold standard. However, very little is known about citizens' perspectives on public engagement in the governance of science, let alone about the social processes and the meaning participation acquires within actual engagement exercises. This article analyses the bottom-up meanings of the concept of public participation in a public engagement exercise in Austria, and traces the variety of connotations and implications that this term was given by the participating citizens and scientists. Copyright , Beech Tree Publishing.
As the distance between science and society is collapsed with the growth of contemporary knowledge societies, so a range of different approaches to the democratic governance of science superseding its Enlightenment government is emerging. In light of these different approaches, this article focuses on the figure of the scientific citizen and the variable dimensions of a new scientific citizenship. Three models of democracy - advanced consumer, deliberative and radical/pluralist - are put forward as both partly competing and partly complementary frameworks within which the new rights and responsibilities of the scientific citizen can be articulated and discussed. In each case the theory and practice of scientific citizenship are viewed against the background of contemporary developments within the field of science communication; the rise of the public understanding of science movement; the new enthusiasm for advancing public engagements with science, and the legitimate place of different forms of public protest and dissent within new designs for democratic governance.
Talk of public dialogue and engagement has become fashionable internationally, and particularly within Europe. Building especially upon recent British experience, this paper argues that 'public talk' (that is, talk both by and about the public) represents an important site for science and technology studies analysis. The relationship between 'new' and 'old' approaches to scientific governance is considered. Drawing upon a series of official reports, and also the GM Nation? public debate over genetically modified food, the paper suggests that, rather than witnessing the emergence of a new governance paradigm, the current approach can more accurately be portrayed as an uneasy blend of 'old' and 'new' assumptions. Eschewing a straightforward normative account, the paper explores the social construction of public talk, the relationship between talk and trust, the search for the 'innocent' citizen, and the pursuit of social consensus. Current initiatives should not simply be criticized for their inadequacies, but should also be viewed as symptomatic of the state of science-society relations. In that way, stresses and strains within the politics of public talk assume wider analytical significance than the 'mere talk' epithet would suggest.