Between Scientists & Citizens

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5th ISU Summer Symposium: Public Participation

5th Iowa State University Summer Symposium on Science Communication
Confronting the challenges of public participation in environmental, planning and health decision-making
3-4 June 2016; Ames, Iowa
Submission deadline:  January 29, 2016

In January 2014, the editor of the leading journal Public Understanding of Science acknowledged that his publication has transitioned from the focus suggested by its name to a new focus on public engagement. Still, he wrote: “the meaning of this transition is not unambiguous.” The purpose of this conference is to explore these ambiguities, in a supportive, yet critical examination of the processes, outcomes and impacts of public participation in decision-making in natural resources, planning and health contexts. A variety of fields have taken up the call to develop new forms of interaction between experts and decision-makers, on one hand, and community residents, patients, landowners, industry representatives and other affected publics on the other. This expanding area for research and practice goes under a variety of names:  public participation, deliberation, dialogue, consensus communication, collaborative governance, participatory modeling, citizen science, among others. Significant creativity has been invested in developing specific practices–indeed, Rowe and Frewer (2005) list 113 mechanisms. We propose to explore both procedural and normative issues in the design, implementation and assessment of public participation processes. Public participation is widely expected to be “better”:  to lead to better physical and social science (e.g., better models), better social outcomes (e.g., trust, collaboration), and better decisions on environmental, health and planning issues. Our goal is to promote a conversation that asks:  better in what ways, compared to what, and measured how?

We invite contributions from relevant disciplines including communication, rhetoric, human dimensions of natural resources, planning, science and technology studies, history & philosophy of science, psychology, sociology, etc.–as well as from scientists who have been involved in participation exercises; using approaches including conceptual analysis, case studies, qualitative and quantitative methods. Possible foci include:

  • defining the boundaries of public participation as situated between public consultation and social movements;
  • articulating key assumptions of public participation such as “representation,” “transparency,” “stakeholder,” “democracy,” “expertise” and of course “public” and “participation” themselves;
  • incorporating, accommodating and managing indecorous voices, deep disagreements, skepticisms and irreconcilable conflicts in public participation mechanisms;
  • exploring the affordances of new technologies and media to support public participation;
  • exploring defensible and practical mechanisms for assessing participatory processes, including by defining what “better” means in these contexts;
  • documenting connections between the public participation processes, their immediate outcomes on participants and their long-term impacts on environment, health, and communities;
  • developing sustainable institutions for public participation;
  • linking public participation activities with curricula in secondary and higher education.

Proceedings of the workshop will be published in print-on-demand and electronic formats. For consideration, submit to Jean Goodwin ( by January 29, 2016:  (a) a blinded 250-500 word abstract with an additional 5-10 item bibliography, and (b) a separate cover page with complete affiliation and contact information.  Please also indicate the expected status of the work to be presented (from early overview to completed study); note that this will not affect acceptance, as we look forward to promoting dialogue among scholars at different stages.  For further information, see or contact Dara Wald ( or Kathleen Hunt ( ).

Program Planning committee: Dara Wald and Kathleen Hunt (Iowa State University) with S. Scott Graham (University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee).  Organizing committee:  Michael Dahlstrom and Jean Goodwin (Iowa State University)

Written by jeangoodwin

November 17, 2015 at 7:06 am

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Listening to what can’t be said

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Judith Curry’s characterization of last week’s PBS report “Climate of Doubt” as “predictable” pretty much captures it. It takes a pretty short memory to think that in 2007 the forces of climate good were on the verge of political victory, snatched from them only by the might of the evil Koch brothers supplemented by the covert work of a host of political operatives (who, by the way, interviewed rather well). I was sorry that the counter-narrative Matt Nisbet’s group put forward in the Climate Shift report hasn’t gotten any traction.

There was one interesting moment, though:  something that wasn’t said.

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Written by jeangoodwin

October 27, 2012 at 10:04 am

A surprising gesture

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Working through the discourse that accumulated while I was reading and listening to what my students had to say, I found a fine post from none other than Steve McIntyre on the Virginia’s ‘fraud investigation’ against Michael Mann, one of his leading adversaries in the Hockey Stick Wars.  McIntyre calls out the publicity stunt for what it is–a “repugnant piece of over-zealousness”:

To the extent that Virginia citizens are concerned about public money being misappropriated, Cuccinelli’s own expenditures on this adventure should be under equal scrutiny. There will be no value for dollar in this enterprise….

To the extent that there are issues with Mann or Jones or any of these guys, they are at most academic misconduct and should be dealt with under those regimes. It is unfortunate that the inquiries at Penn State and UEA have not been even minimally diligent, but complaints on that account rest with the universities or their supervising institutions and the substitution of inappropriate investigations by zealots like Cuccinelli are not an alternative….

I intend to write Cuccinelli expressing my disdain for his actions.

Read on to learn how this relates to the previous post.

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Written by jeangoodwin

June 10, 2010 at 7:00 am

Science and religion–and politics

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Having survived the end of the semester–and being close to surviving two deadlines and a conference–I hope to get back to blogging again in the next two weeks.  Here’s a small start.

The New York Times is only one recent source for speculations on the intersection of religion and the climate science controversies. To me, analogies along the lines of “belief in climate change is like a religious faith” are unlikely to enlighten.  Both science and religion are sprawling enterprises–putting them together is just sprawl squared.

Science and religion do share one characteristic, though:  they both stand athwart politics.  So people interested in the relationship between science and politics might learn something from those who have written about the religion/politics interface.  Richard John Neuhaus, for example.

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Written by jeangoodwin

May 21, 2010 at 9:23 am

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Advocacy: take advantage of your opponents’ commitments

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We interrupt this program…. For a brief mention of Esquire’s profile on Marc Morano.

I spend most of my time looking at what people have said.  Every so often, though, it’s possible to get a glimpse of the “backstage” process through which the public speech was designed.  In a previous post on Morano’s techniques, and in my summary of lessons learned, I stressed that advocates need to rely on their opponents’ commitments as starting points for their own arguments.  Here’s the man himself saying the same thing to his colleagues, to a planning meeting at Copenhagen last year:

“Don’t quote the skeptics,” he begins. “Use the words of their fellow scientists.”

He pushes a key on his laptop and a slide appears on the screen behind him: COPENHAGEN CLIMATE CHANGE TALKS MUST FAIL.

“Let’s play a little game. Who said this? Was it Sarah Palin? Was it Senator Inhofe?”

A familiar voice calls out: “James Hansen, hahahahaha.

“James Hansen! James Hansen said this conference must fail! So if anyone asks you this week, How can you be against this? say, We stand shoulder to shoulder with NASA’s James Hansen!”

Morano stands at the podium grinning. The joke, of course, is that Hansen opposed the conference because it didn’t go nearly far enough to solve the problem, which is the opposite of Morano’s distorted meaning.

He triggers another slide. It’s a prominent scientist saying the Climate-gate scientists should be barred from the United Nations climate process. “This is not a skeptic,” he crows. “This is a UN scientist!”

Next is a leading British science journalist saying that most of his environmentalist friends have gone into denial about Climate-gate, hoping the crisis will go away.

“Again, you don’t have to quote a skeptic. Use their words.

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Written by jeangoodwin

March 31, 2010 at 7:05 am

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another analogy explaining climategate

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Yesterday, I looked at how one analogy for the impact of climategate went astray.  Here’s another, from Randy Olson’s recent interview with Ed Begley, Jr., over at The Benshi:

Like the point Bill McKibben makes recently, what’s happening with global warming is like what happened with the O.J. case:  you have a mountain of evidence, yet they manage to get it all thrown aside through their theatrics.

Bill McKibben recently likened the “controversy” surrounding climate science to the botched O.J. Simpson trial

Climategate is nothing more than Mark Fuhrman. You have one cop that does some weird things and that’s enough to outweigh all the evidence. They had to come up with a Mark Fuhrman for the glove, because the glove had O.J.’s hair, it had Goldman’s blood, and Nicole’s blood and fiber from the bronco. If they didn’t have Mark Fuhrman, they’re screwed. Well that’s what they did with Climategate, there’s sea temperatures, air temperatures, melting glaciers, with all that’s there, they’ve got to come up with some guy in East Anglia in Britain that’s kind of wacky, and they gotta hack into his computers, and make a case as they did with O.J. That’s the point Bill McKibben made recently, if you’ve seen what he said.

Ouch!  Ed Begley, Jr. (and Bill McKibben), I don’t think this is what you want to say!

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Written by jeangoodwin

March 19, 2010 at 12:10 pm

explaining the impact of climategate

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On the same Canadian news show that I mentioned yesterday, Joe Romm offers an alternative view. Should climategate and the recently discussed IPCC errors change what citizens believe, or how reporters handle the matter?

There’s no question that in this 3000 page report, the IPCC report, there were one or two relatively trivial mistakes, as the Washington Post put it.  But they have been used as an excuse by some in the media to question the entire science.  The analogy I use is: every major newspaper publishes corrections every single day and yet they expect the public to come back and believe what’s in the newspaper (ca. 4:00).

The analogy is a good one, although it goes against the point Romm is trying to make.

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Written by jeangoodwin

March 19, 2010 at 9:39 am