Date on Master's Thesis/Doctoral Dissertation


Document Type

Doctoral Dissertation

Degree Name

Ph. D.



Degree Program

Humanities, PhD

Committee Chair

Dove, Guy

Committee Co-Chair (if applicable)

Elpidorou, Andreas

Committee Member

Elpidorou, Andreas

Committee Member

Danovitch, Judith

Committee Member

Fusilier, Linda

Author's Keywords

science; democracy; public; engagement; education


Engaging the public with science is not an easy task. When presented, scientific findings, public health recommendations, and other scientific information filter through the personal values, beliefs, and biases of members of the public. Science communicators must contend with these differences in order to be effective in cultivating a public understanding of science. Given the importance of scientific understanding for living well in a complex world, increasing science understanding through science engagement is imperative. The field of public engagement with science is dichotomized by a public information deficit approach and a contextualist approach. The deficit approach prizes the factual content of science, its epistemic authority, and its communication to the public while the contextualist approach recognizes the sociocultural embeddedness of science in society, how science is received by publics, and how local knowledges intersect with science. I contend both approaches are incomplete, and I put forth a synthesis. My approach, the participant-centered model of science engagement, incorporates the factual content of science and its epistemic authority, but in a way that is sensitive to context. I argue for a deliberative democratic approach to public engagement with science and articulate a model inspired by learner-centered approaches to teaching in the formal education literature. I outline and assess six participant-centered strategies along with recommendations for particular practices associated with each.