The Quality of Public Dialogue

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Science  30 Nov 2007:
Vol. 318, Issue 5855, pp. 1349
DOI: 10.1126/science.1151332

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Summary

Scientists are increasingly asked by funders and governments to engage the public. They are no longer expected merely to "teach" the public what they are presumed to need to know. Rather, we now know that a less hierarchical process, in which both parties listen and learn, has greater impact. A critical strand of this public engagement with science involves policy-makers, who are increasing their dialogue with the public to help make wiser decisions about how society uses science. These changes in communication are important because issues like climate change and health are in the political mainstream and affect everyone. But these dialogues must be of a high standard; otherwise, time is wasted, the public lose trust in science, and bad policy decisions result. So, what constitutes good dialogue?