09 November 2010

Nisbet on the Deficit Model vs. Engagement Model

Matt Nisbet of American University, has a good post up in which he discusses a distinction between the so-called "deficit model" of expert communication and the so-called "public engagement model" (see the table above from one of Nisbet's papers). 

Nisbet writes:
In contrast to individuals serving as advocates, national science organizations, universities, and other expert institutions have a duty instead to avoid partisan advocacy and to sponsor efforts at civic education and public engagement. These efforts should seek to not only improve technical understanding of climate science, but also understanding of the social, political, and ethical dimensions of the issue. These efforts are not designed to argue in favor of any one policy or political party, but should rather provide the motivation and opportunities for citizens to connect, plan, learn, and voice their preferences on climate change.

The difference between deficit-model activism and public engagement, unfortunately, is too often confused by how science communication is discussed at popular blogs, books, in talks, in reports, and in commentary articles. In a series of journal articles over the past few years, I have sought to distinguish and explain the important differences and to provide clarity. At the end of this post, I have included links to these resources and to related blog posts.
See Matt's post for those resources