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.).



Public opinions about human enhancement can enhance the expert-only debate: A review study

Anne M. Dijkstra, Mirjam Schuijff

Human enhancement, the non-medical use of biomedical technologies to improve the human body or performance beyond their ‘natural’ limitations, is a growing trend. At the same time, the use of these technologies has societal consequences. In societal debates about human enhancement, however, it is mainly the voices of experts that are being heard, and little is known about the public’s understanding of human enhancement. The views of the public can give valuable insights, and can, in turn, supplement experts’ voices in political decision-making as has been argued before for other emerging technologies. This study presents a systematic literature review of current public perceptions and attitudes towards technologies for human enhancement. Results show that the public’s view has not been assessed often. Studies originate mainly from western-oriented countries and cover a broad range of enhancement technologies. In the studies, the majority of respondents hold moderate to strong negative attitudes towards enhancement technologies for non-medical applications, although the type of technology influences these opinions. The study provides an overview of what is known about citizens’ attitudes towards technologies for human enhancement.


How people feel their engagement can have efficacy for a bio-based society

Susanne Sleenhoff, Patricia Osseweijer

Up till now, the transition to a bio-based economy mainly involves expert stakeholders. However, the actions required are of a collective scale necessitating public engagement for support and action. Such engagement is only successful if members of the public believe their participation holds efficacy. This belief is closely linked to their personal representation of the issue. We report findings from our Q methodology workshop that explored public’s efficacy beliefs on their perceived ways for engagement with a bio-based economy. Participants were provided with stakeholders’ visual representations depicting a concourse of the transition to a bio-based economy for Q sorting. We found five efficacy beliefs that differ in scale on which participants consider themselves capable for action. These results indicate that members of the public foresee distinct and shared ways and levels in how they can engage with the transition to a bio-based society that do not always concur with stakeholders’ views.


‘I don’t get this climate stuff !’ Making sense of climate change among the corporate middle class in Lagos

Adeniyi P. Asiyanbi

Public engagement continues to be central to wider efforts to address climate change. This study contributes to public engagement debates by investigating engagement with climate change among an often overlooked group, the corporate middle class in Africa’s second largest megacity, Lagos. Combining survey and interviews, I focus analysis on three aspects: awareness, knowledge and concern; role of scientific and social frames in shaping general attitude; and spatial attribution of causes and consequences. The study reveals a universal awareness and high concern about climate change among the respondents, although understanding and perceptions of climate change are significantly socially framed. Social situatedness, more than scientific facts, is the most important definer of overall engagement with climate change. This study thus underscores a nuanced constructionist stance, showing how corporate professionals’ ‘ways of knowing’ climate change is underpinned by a certain co-production between scientific and socio-experiential frames. I highlight implications for research and public engagement with climate change.