Key aspects of scientific competence for citizenship: A Delphi study of the expert community in Spain

Ángel Blanco-López, Enrique España-Ramos, Francisco José González-García and Antonio Joaquín Franco-Mariscal

Recent decades have seen an increasing emphasis on linking the content and aims of science teaching to what the average citizen requires in order to participate effectively in contemporary society, one that is heavily dependent on science and technology. However, despite attempts to define what a scientific education for citizenship should ideally involve, a comprehensive set of key aspects has yet to be clearly established. With this in mind, the present study sought to determine empirically the extent of any consensus in Spain regarding the principal aspects of scientific competence that citizens should possess in order to function adequately in everyday life. This was done by means of a three-stage Delphi process involving 31 participants drawn from among leading and acknowledged Spanish scholar-scientists and engineers, researchers and private sector scientists, philosophers of science, science educators, and science communicators. The outcome of this process was a set of five aspects for which there was both consensus and stability. Several of these aspects were also found to be interrelated. There was a tendency for higher ratings to be given to aspects related to attitudes and/or values than to those referring to knowledge. It was in relation to the latter, along with other aspects concerning the nature of science, that discrepancies were observed among the different professional groups surveyed. Comparison of the present results with the content of previous reports indicates that in recent decades the ability to think critically and skills related to the interpretation of information have been considered to be important aspects for citizens to acquire as part of their scientific education. It is argued that the five key aspects identified in this study should be considered jointly in the context of school science education, since they are interrelated skills that citizens will require when tackling important issues and making decisions in various spheres of their life (personal, social, professional, etc.).



A failed platform: The Citizen Consensus Conference travels to Chile

Sebastián Ureta

This article starts by reviewing the setbacks that the recent Science and Technology Studies literature has identified in the functioning of technologies of democracy, the different arrangements that look to enact deliberation on technoscientific issues. Putting a focus on the Citizen Consensus Conference, it then proposes that several of these setbacks are related to the kind of “work” that these technologies are expected to do, identifying two kinds of it: performing a laboratory-based experiment and constituting a platform for the dissemination of facts. It then applies this framework to study a Citizen Consensus Conference carried out in Chile in 2003. After a detailed genealogy of the planning, implementation and afterlife of this exercise, the article concludes that several of the limitations experienced are derived from a “successful outcome” conceived as solely running a neat lab-based experiment, arguing for the need to incorporate its functioning as a platform with all the associated transformations and messiness.


Popular Climate Science and Painless Consumer Choices: Communicating Climate Change in the Hot Pink Flamingos Exhibit, Monterey Bay Aquarium, California

Merav Katz-Kimchi and Lucy Atkinson

Using critical discourse analysis, we examine the communicative potential of science centers to engage the public in climate change science. Drawing on a theoretical framework combining climate change engagement and communication, science centers as sites of engagement and communication, ecological citizenship, and insights from social cognitive theory, our analysis shows that along with popularizing climate science and making it accessible to the general public, the Hot Pink Flamingos exhibit prioritized individual, marketplace-based action on climate change over solutions requiring large-scale social change or collective action. Responsibility for climate change was individualized, and the political realm was mostly reduced to lifestyle choices.


Citizen cartography, strategies of resistance to established knowledge and collective forms of knowledge building

Jorgelina Sannazzaro

Cultivation of genetically modified soybeans with the use of herbicides is now becoming widespread in Argentina. This work addresses an emblematic case of knowledge articulation between experts, professionals and communities, namely, the case of an association of people affected by fumigation Grupos de Pueblos Fumigados (GPF). The GPF warns against agrochemical spraying in urban areas, and its activists collect and disseminate information about its impact with a view to banning the practice. Here, we apply Parthasarathy’s framework, used to analyse the strategies employed by activists to break the expertise barrier, to the case of the GPF, adding a new category to her original four strategies. There is an institutionalizing potential in these social and environmental movements, many of which are organized in the form of Civic Assemblies. The composition of the assemblies reflects a heterogeneous and multi-sectorial character; they articulate a new kind of knowledge that can be an appropriate interlocutor for traditional expert knowledge.