In recent years there has been a shift away from the simple promotion of science
through attempting to improve public understanding of science and a move towards
recognition that science’s relationship with society is complex and dynamic. The
concerns about the science world’s ability to communicate effectively and interactively
with "outsiders" were described most notably in the "Science and Society"
report published by the House of Lords Select Committee on Science and Technology
in February 2000.
One of the most often quoted recommendations within that report was:
"That direct dialogue with the public should move from being an optional add-on
to science-based policy making and to the activities of research organisations and
learned institutions, and should become a normal and integral part of the process."
The House of Lords report stopped short of describing how this might be practically
achieved. These guidelines have been produced by People Science & Policy Ltd for
the Research Councils UK and the Office of Science and Technology, with the express
purpose of addressing this outstanding issue, as the introduction by Lord Patrick
Jenkin (who chaired the Science and Society inquiry) makes clear.
The guide is intended primarily for those relatively new to communicating science
or who are making the first steps to move from a monologue approach to a dialogue
style. Thus some more experienced communicators may find that sections in this guide
cover ground they already know. It is intended that the "Guidelines" and "Organiser’s
Checklist" in each chapter, will provide a useful aide memoire for all practising
communicators seeking to increase opportunities for dialogue and exchanges of ideas
The guide covers the issues that any activity organiser might expect to encounter.
Each chapter follows a similar format with a brief discussion followed by some guidelines
on issues to think about, some examples and an organiser’s checklist. The intention
is always to help maximise the audience reached and the interaction with that audience.
The chapters in the guide address: setting objectives; understanding audiences;
attracting audiences; encouraging dialogue within traditional formats; identifying
appropriate techniques to facilitate dialogue; and evaluation.
A copy of the report is available
, the report's appendixes can be accessed