The “Intelligent Layman” and Science Communication in Norwegian Public Places

Kristian Overskaug, Arnfinn Rokne, Morten Steffensen

When the oldest research enterprise in Norway, the Royal Norwegian Society of Sciences and Letters, was founded in 1760 in the city of Trondheim, the cofounder Johan Gunnerus (1718-1773) said that one objective was to impart sciences to the “intelligent layman”—the man and woman in the street. A museum, a journal, a library, a botanical garden, and funding for research and dissemination are central means employed in this work. Lecturers have also been taking their audience to an untraditional arena, an urban or a rural setting, where they lecture on a topic of current interest using the location as a backdrop. Their audience does not necessarily have prior knowledge of the topic, and the lecturers lacks the safety net that an auditorium represents. The setting requires pedagogical improvement and also encourages discussions and the posing of questions. Has the objective to educate the public been attained?

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