The framing of the public under discussion returned again and again to one which is docile, timid and all-in-all, not too far from one on the wrong side of a science deficit model (despite efforts from Alice). The public as a slothlike mass, waiting for us to decend the ivory steps and assist them with their problems. For free, or certainly without expectation or motivation of profit.
We should know better. Especially at SPRU.
Society is not docile. Society is not out there waiting for our benevolence. And society certainly doesn’t require the philanthropy of cloistered innovation policy experts. Society is getting on with it. It’s funding innovation diffusion. It’s finding new ways to engage a moribund politics. It’s clawing at the data silos and it’s not holding back.
In short, society will not wait for academics to finish vigorous beard stroking and sign off on scientific consensus before loping into the field on an engagement exercise predicated by late night box ticking on a last minute funding bid. Science is going to be engaged with regardless, the only issue being the directionality. So here’s the takeaway; if we want it to be our science with which the public engages, we better shape up, catch up, and welcome them in.