Assessment Tool for Improving Public Engagement

Date: July 15, 2015 - July 16, 2015
Time: 1:30 p.m. ET
Contact: Rosa Soliz,

An Assessment Tool for Improving Public Engagement Around Complex, Emergent and Contested Science and Technology Issues

Presented by: Dr. Weston M. Eaton, NCRCRD Postdoctoral Consultant, Michigan State University University

Engagement with publics and stakeholders increasingly involves advanced and complex technologies, expertise and science. Emerging technologies (ETs) share several characteristics: the science around ETs is often uncertain, ill-defined, in its infancy, or contested by experts or publics. Importantly, ETs are not “new” for everyone! For some, specific technologies may be “old hat”, while for others, the same technology is raising new kinds of questions and concerns. Examples may include biofuels, fracking, GMOs, climate change, water contamination, or precision agriculture. As a result, public engagement initiatives around ETs confront a unique set of challenges and pitfalls. Dr. Eaton will share results of a research project investigating how university Extension and other public engagement professionals confront and manage challenges. He will present an “Assessment Tool” intended to help public engagement professionals navigate common pitfalls for university engagement around ETs.

Consider the following questions before attending:

  1. What emerging technologies have you confronted in your own public engagement work?
  2. Did you encounter any unique or important challenges when engaging with others on this topic?
  3. How did you and your partners manage these challenges?

Dr. Weston Eaton has been involved in the study of conflict and controversy over natural resource use and the development and siting of new renewable energy technologies. In his recently defended dissertation (Sociology, MSU), he examined controversy over woody-biomass bioenergy in Michigan. Working with Dr. Wynne Wright, he partnered with MSU Extension to develop an “Issue Guide” for public engagement around contested natural resource issues:

This fall he begins work on energy transitions at Penn State University. Complete details: 

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