Expertise and Self-Determination in Public Participation in Science

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2016-01-01
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Tanona, Scott
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Iowa State University Summer Symposium on Science Communication
Iowa State University Conferences and Symposia

The Science Communication Project @ISU was founded in 2010 with the goal of enhancing collaborative research on, education for, and the practice of public science communication, broadly conceived. Our biennial symposia- which include public presentations of multidisciplinary research and interactive workshops- bring together a network of scholars who share interests in public engagement of science, environmental communication, natural resource management, and agriscience. Conference proceedings showcase research, evaluations, and critiques of science communication-related practices and phenomena.

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I suggest that we assess the value of public participation at least partly by its effect on the public’s individual and collective self-determination, measured by how well the science aids the public to rationally and effectively pursue its own ends. I explore two areas of expertise relevant to science’s ability to foster rational, effective self-determination: expertise in evidential reasoning and expertise in value identification. I describe ways in which public participation may introduce trade-offs between accurate reflection of public values and evidential quality and precision, where loss of either may lead to a failure of public self-determination.

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