Social scientists and public engagement with (social?) science
Wilkinson, C. and Sardo, M. (2011) Social scientists and public engagement with (social?) science. In: British Sociological Association Annual Conference, LSE, London, UK, 6th-8th April 2011.
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The need for a greater engagement with social science has been highlighted by key UK-based organisations, such as the ESRC and the Academy of Social Sciences (Benyon and David, 2008). In the UK, as Burchell and Holden (2009:4) describe, an ‘extensive and diverse network – consisting of policy, practitioner, academic actors…has emerged… around the practice of a particular form of public participation in science and technology’, networks ‘searching for shared languages, understandings, objectives and even timeframes’. Social scientists operate in a range of capacities from policymaking organisations, to advisers and co-investigators, teachers, facilitators and evaluators within PEST contexts. Natural scientists have shifted from the subject to the collaborators or partners. Drawing on the findings from a British Academy funded project ‘Negotiated Boundaries: The Role of Social Scientists in Public Engagement with Science and Technology (PEST)’ this paper will discuss the experiences of 20 interviewees working in, with and between social and natural science settings. The research explores how social scientists engaged in PEST settings identify their role and the implications that can be drawn for social science engagement, or the social sciences mosaic of ‘public face(s)’ (Holmwood and Scott, 2007). The paper explores issues of identity and role when social scientists participate in the many public engagement with science and technology activities which have occurred across the UK, reflecting on the both very positive, and sometimes negative, reflections and experiences of researchers in such settings.