Science cafés were originally conceived as an informal, dialogue-based venue for public participation in science. The first science cafés took place in the United Kingdom and France in 1997–98. Two formats—one featuring a single speaker (United Kingdom) and one with a panel of speakers and a moderator (France)—resulted from these first initiatives. Since then, science cafés have been adapted to other sociocultural contexts, and today, science cafés are being conducted in many different countries and for many different purposes. We examine the emergence and development of science cafés in Denmark and Japan with particular focus on the role of science and technology studies (STS), national contexts of science communication policy, and cultures of public participation. We find that in both countries, despite different expectations of public deliberation about science and technology, science cafés have been easily embedded in the “new” scientific governance programs (Irwin 2006). This is mainly due to institutional support in the national research systems and the involvement of STS scholars who, in their support of public participation in science and dialogue-based science communication, have advocated science cafés as a meaningful way to intervene in science-society relationships. “Sipping science” in a science café, enabling public participation in science deliberations, has interpretative flexibility, appealing to a wide variety of people and stakeholders engaged in public communication of science and technology.
Sipping Science: The Interpretative Flexibility of Science Cafés in Denmark and Japan
Kristian H. Nielsen is associate professor at the Centre for Science Studies at Aarhus University. His professional interests include science communication and science and technology studies. He has organized science cafés on a regular basis in Aarhus since 2003. In 2008 and 2012, respectively, he visited Osaka University and the Tokyo Institute of Technology on short-term research stays.
Gert Balling is senior adviser at the University of Copenhagen. He is working in the field of technology transfer and science communication and has chaired the Danish Science Cafés since 2001. He visited Hokkaido University in 2006 and Osaka University and the Tokyo Institute of Technology in 2011.
Tom Hope is an associate professor in the International Student Center at Tokyo Institute of Technology. He moved to Japan from the UK in 2003 after conducting research for his doctorate in sociology at the University of York. His recent research uses qualitative methodologies to study human-computer interaction, contemporary forms of community, and the internationalization of science and engineering higher education in Japan.
Masaki Nakamura is associate professor at Osaka University. He is working in the field of history of technology, research integrity, and science communication. He has been deeply engaged with the Japanese science café movement since 2005, and he has contributed to the diffusion of science cafés in Japan.
Kristian H. Nielsen, Gert Balling, Tom Hope, Masaki Nakamura; Sipping Science: The Interpretative Flexibility of Science Cafés in Denmark and Japan. East Asian Science, Technology and Society 1 March 2015; 9 (1): 1–21. doi: https://doi.org/10.1215/18752160-2832109
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