Enacting acts of authentication in a robotics competition: An interpretivist study

Geeta Verma, Anton Puvirajah and Horace Webb

While the science classroom primarily remains a site for knowledge acquisition through teacher directed experiences, other sites exist outside of the classroom that allow for student generation of scientific knowledge. These sites provide opportunities for linguistic and social interactions to play a powerful role in situating students’ science learning experiences. Augmenting students’ formal school science experiences with informal experiences outside of the classroom enables them to intersect their personal knowledge with canonical disciplinary knowledge. This allows for conditions of practice that are more relevant to the students. In this study we introduce the notion of acts of authentication to examine the nature of students’ linguistic and social activities in an informal setting—a regional robotics competition. These acts of authentication are a) participating in talk (including everyday); b) participating in productive disciplinary engagement (by co-constructing and critiquing knowledge); and c) being a member of a community of practice. We used Critical Discourse Analysis to examine students’ and mentor’s dialogic language to gain insights into the nature of their robotics experiences. Our findings indicate that the robotics experience offered rich opportunities for students to engage in acts of authentication. Our study offers conceptual insights into how the culture of the robotics activities both constructs and is constructed by the linguistic and social experiences of the students and their mentors.



The Space Public Outreach Team (SPOT): Adapting a successful outreach programme to a new region

Kathryn Williamson, Angela Des Jardins, Irene Grimberg, Shane L. Larson, Joey Key, Michelle B. Larson, Sue Ann Heatherly, David McKenzie, Tyson B. Littenberg

The Space Public Outreach Team (SPOT) recruits and trains undergraduate ambassadors from all disciplines to deliver astronomy and space-science-themed interactive presentations. They deliver these presentations to primary and secondary schools and organisations across the state of Montana, USA. SPOT was started in 1996 by physics graduate students at Montana State University, USA, and it has grown to reach an average of 10 000 students per year for a low institutional cost of less than five dollars (four euros) per student. In the last year, the Montana SPOT model has been adopted in the state of West Virginia. The West Virginia SPOT programme also shows great potential, with eleven ambassadors trained to give two new feature presentations, reaching over 2600 students. In this paper, we describe how the Montana SPOT model works in practice and discuss how this model was adapted with new resources, and for a new audience, such that others may also adapt the programme to inspire space science interest for their own particular setting. We invite these groups to plug into the SPOT brand to broaden the impact of astronomy and space programmes and applications in their own region.


Experimenting with distributed approaches – Case study: A ‘national-level’ distributed dialogue on bioenergy

Marta Entradas

An emerging thread in the public participation debate is the need for innovative and more experimental forms of dialogue to address weaknesses of previous structured deliberative methods. This research note discusses an experiment with a distributed approach to dialogue, which used bioenergy as a case study. We discuss the potential of the model to attract a variety of publics and views and to inform policy. This is done with a view to refining future dialogues and increasing the involvement of scientists and other practitioners at the science-policy interface.


Redefining Genomic Privacy: Trust and Empowerment

Yaniv Erlich, James B. Williams, David Glazer, Kenneth Yocum, Nita Farahany, Maynard Olson, Arvind Narayanan, Lincoln D. Stein, Jan A. Witkowski and Robert C. Kain

Fulfilling the promise of the genetic revolution requires the analysis of large datasets containing information from thousands to millions of participants. However, sharing human genomic data requires protecting subjects from potential harm. Current models rely on de-identification techniques in which privacy versus data utility becomes a zero-sum game. Instead, we propose the use of trust-enabling techniques to create a solution in which researchers and participants both win. To do so we introduce three principles that facilitate trust in genetic research and outline one possible framework built upon those principles. Our hope is that such trust-centric frameworks provide a sustainable solution that reconciles genetic privacy with data sharing and facilitates genetic research.