Working across the disciplinary divide to engage the public with green technologies
Early-career researchers who attended the Future Earth networking conference on “Ecosystems and human wellbeing in the green economy” have been continuing the interdisciplinary exchange across the social and natural sciences.
Dr Jennifer Dodson, a research fellow at the Green Chemistry Centre of Excellence at the University of York and Dr Thomas Roberts, a research fellow in the School of Sociology at the University of Surrey have initiated a project and received funding from the Royal Society of Chemistry to train early-career researchers in public communication and study public dialogues around green technologies being developed at the University of York.
It will be run by a new organisation, GreenSTEMS, at the University of York connecting early-career scientists across the natural and social sciences around sustainability.
Researchers at the University of York are developing a range of green technologies including developing plastics from food supply chain waste, producing energy from whole plants and genetically modifying organisms to clean water. However, few scientists consider the perceptions of the public about new technologies or involve the public in the development of their research. This initiative will bring together York scientists and the general public in a face-to-face two-way dialogue about awareness and perception of green technologies being developed at the University of York.
The project aims to evaluate the effectiveness of such initiatives for both providing the public with an outlet to engage with scientists about the development of new green technologies and enabling scientists to develop the necessary skills to involve the public with their research. By encouraging the scientists to reflect on their experience of interacting with the public about the work it is hoped that it will encourage them to think about the kind of questions which the public have in relation to the development of new technologies and how their ideas and opinions could be incorporated into the scientific process.
Furthermore, this attempt to bridge the gap between the science community and the general public represents far more than just public relations exercises. Scientific and technological developments represent an important frontier in the fight against climate change and environmental degradation. However, to succeed significant investment is needed from governments which can only be justified if the general public understand how it is spent and have an opportunity to comment on the focus of scientific research.
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