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Biological Anthropology and Dialogue with Diverse Publics


AAPA speakers 2018


April 13, 2018
87th Annual Meeting of the American Association of Physical Anthropologists
Austin, TX

An individual’s worldview, including their religious beliefs and cultural background, informs their perceptions of research studies and the scientific endeavor as a whole. According to a 2015 Pew survey, a majority of the American public identifies as religious or spiritual, and view science as ‘often in conflict’ with religion. These divides are detrimental for all concerned, as a presumption that scientists hold different worldviews (including backgrounds, values, beliefs, and priorities) than other publics can impact the perceived trustworthiness and credibility of scientists on critical issues at the interface of science and society. Accordingly, engagement is increasingly recognized as an important dimension of science scholarship. Effective engagement can have a positive impact on public appreciation and support for scientific research, funding, education, and science-informed policy. Engagement with publics directly or indirectly impacted by scientific research is important for ethical reasons, but can also yield important insights for research topics, hypothesis development, methodology, and data interpretation. In a climate of increasing social polarization, there is a need for scientists to move beyond a science communication model focused on correcting perceived “deficits” in public knowledge and perspectives, and towards a framework centered on dialogue, trust-building, and the identification of shared interests and goals among scientists and other stakeholders.

This symposium highlighted examples, challenges and broader strategies for effective engagement with diverse publics on topics within and beyond biological anthropology. 

Read more about the Engaging Scientists project here.

Read speaker papers here.