Engaging Lay Publics in Museums on Provocative Societal Questions Related to Science

Friday, February 15, 2013: 8:00 AM-9:30 AM
Room 309 (Hynes Convention Center)
One of the benefits of science to the public is that the knowledge it generates can help us all make decisions we need to make individually and collectively in a democratic society. However, research has found that in their own thinking or in constructing a position about a socio-scientific dilemma, the public relies on three major classes of support for their arguments: scientific data, personal experience, and personal values related to environment, economy, and moral commitments. Furthermore, a growing body of work suggests that people endorse whichever position reinforces their connection to others with whom they share important value commitments, and the scientific evidence is ignored, or worse, actively rejected. A new, innovative exhibit in development at the Museum of Science in Boston brings together decades of research in science communication with novel approaches in informal science education to introduce lay publics to the complex societal debates surrounding science and emerging technologies. The exhibit leads visitors through an examination of values and personal experience they bring to their thinking and provides them with the opportunity to select high-quality research results to inform their position. This session focuses on the application of research on socio-scientific argumentation and cultural cognition to broadly applicable strategies for communicating scientific evidence relevant to provocative questions in the context of health and human biology.
Larry Bell, Museum of Science
Dietram A. Scheufele, University of Wisconsin
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