Article: “Engaging the Public at a Science Festival:
Findings From a Panel on Human Gene Editing”
What do we know?
- Science is increasingly politicized in the United States. Public sentiment around scientific progress, particularly in areas considered controversial or immoral, often become hotly contested debates within political and social discourse.
- Increasingly, public engagement events include explicit focus on controversial topics to help educate the public on benefits, risks, and opportunities that new scientific advances hold for our communities. Yet despite the proliferation of public engagement events for science-related issues, research studies on learning outcomes associated with these events are lagging.
- Evaluation findings from the Wisconsin Science Festival indicate that lay audience participants who attended a panel on human gene editing gained a broader understanding of the technology. Panelists also heard from audience members the aspects of the technology they found most interesting.
- Public engagement events that emphasize bi-directional communication and mutual learning hold promise for educating publics about controversial science research and practice. These events should focus on sharing knowledge of both benefits and risks associated with specific scientific techniques and practices so that audience members can better assess the value of controversial scientific advances.
How do we know?
The Wisconsin Science Festival hosted a 90-minute panel session on human gene editing, bringing together bench scientists, social scientists, and ethicists to discuss the opportunities and challenges associated with genome editing technologies. Pre- and post-test surveys were administered to every fifth person who entered and left the building (n=34 and n=26, respectively). Respondents were asked a series of questions about the morality of gene editing technologies, as well as risk and benefit perceptions associated with the technology.
Where do we go to learn more?
Rose, Kathleen M., Korzekwa, Kaine, Brossard, Dominique, Scheufele, Dietram A., & Heisler, Laura. 2017. Engaging the Public at a Science Festival: Findings From a Panel on Human Gene Editing. Science Communication, 39(2): 250-277.