Rules of engagement: How and why are ocean and aquatic scientists communicating with the public?
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In marine-management contexts, public engagement is increasingly being incorporated into the decision-making process. As governments devolve more responsibility for the management of marine space and resources, it is more important than ever to establish effective communication between scientists and the public. However, the extent to which scientists embrace their role as communicators varies, as do the channels and methods of engagement they pursue. Scientists have historically relied on a “deficit model” of communication, which holds scientists and scientific information in a privileged position relative to the public. The public engagement with science field has repeatedly criticized this model, citing its repeated failures to improve science literacy or enhance support for science. Rather, they argue that scientists must engage with the public by becoming more open and responding to their interests and concerns. Through surveys and interviews, data was collected to help understand the factors that encourage or discourage ocean and aquatic researchers from engaging with the public. Findings suggest that participants had a very positive view of “engagement” as a whole but differed in their interpretation of what engaging with the public entailed. Many participants also reported frequent contact with the public and media but little formal communications training. Recommendations include increased communications training for scientists at the post-secondary level, as well as future case studies that examine interactions between scientists and the public in specific marine-management contexts, such as aquaculture siting. Keywords: public engagement with science; science and technology studies; science communication; deficit model; management.