A set of guidelines lays out good practice for researchers engaging with the public in a wide range of contexts.
After extensive consultation, the Royal Society of New Zealand has published the final version of its Public Engagement Guidelines for Researchers, Scholars and Scientists.
The Society was asked to develop the guidelines as part of the Government's A Nation of Curious Minds strategy. The finalised guidelines, which are voluntary but designed to inform public engagement practices in a number of contexts, from research institutions to public agencies and private science-related companies, lays out some practical ways of delivering clear, evidence-based communication and engagement.
"The guidelines have ended up in a good place," says SMC Director Peter Griffin.
"They strike a decent balance between empowering experts to inform the public about their work and the issues that need explaining and the various responsibilities they have as responsible experts and as employees with various contractual obligations."
A key facet of the guidelines is a series of principles that promote informed public discussion.
"The ability to uphold the free flow of ideas and information, as well as fostering an open, informed debate on matters of public interest, is central to building and maintaining a democratic and inclusive society," the guidelines state.
"Further, citizens expect to participate in discussion and debate on important public issues. A better-informed community, that is comfortable with research and new and innovative ideas, will have greater capacity and capability to critically assess and absorb new knowledge, and make well-informed decisions."
Griffin said that the SMC would seek to reflect the guidelines in its Science Media SAVVY media training programme and science communication workshops.
"It is great that we now have a reference point for good practice in this area, which takes account of the local context and the various types of employment experts across the country find themselves in."
Download a copy of the guidelines from the Royal Society of New Zealand website.