Civic Science is an emerginig discipline that informs how the practice and knowledge of science can support scientific literacy, dialogue across difference, civic engagement, social action, political advocacy, and community revitalization. Tisch College strives to advance Civic Science through a series of courses, programs, and events designed to bring a broad spectrum of science issues into our civic lives, in order to enable individuals and communities to make well-informed decisions on matters that impact their lives.
Our Civic Science initiative aims to reframe the ways that key participants—scientists, the public, the media, institutions of higher education and other stakeholders—affect the national science dialogue by:
- Redefining the role of higher education in promoting science for the public good, to better enable colleges, universities, and professional schools to cultivate core capacities that can turn science-based information into actionable civic knowledge
- Redefining the role of the scientist in society by training scientists to implement a participatory approach with the public that fosters an understanding that science is not the exclusive domain of “scientist-experts” and policy-makers
- Redefining the national conversation on divisive and complex scientific issues to create a more inclusive environment for an exchange of ideas through dialogue that connects science to the daily choices we face
Tisch College's Civic Science efforts are led by Dr. Jonathan Garlick.
Civic Science Courses
Each year, we offer a series of undergraduate Civic Science courses that teach students conceptual approaches and practical skills needed to effectively impact civic change on science-based issues of societal consequence. Science majors strengthen civic skills like advocacy and communication, while students from the humanities and social sciences learn skills indispensable for positive civic engagement that will guide their critical decisions on science issues. The Fall 2018 Civic Science courses are:
Science and Civic Action
This course teaches students conceptual approaches and practical skills needed to effectively impact change on science-based issues of societal consequence. This course will link science issues to our professional, personal, civic and moral responsibilities and will equip students to make critical choices on divisive, contemporary science issues. Future scientists and engineers will learn to be active citizens by acquiring skills that build civic capacities, including advocacy and communication on complex, science issues. Students from the humanities and social sciences will learn skills indispensable for positive civic and democratic engagement that will guide critical decisions on science issues. This course aims to maximize opportunities for engaged citizenship and social action, as well as to strengthen inclusivity through pluralistic and dialogic approaches to learning.
Special Topics: Dialogue, Identity & Civic Action
This course offers students in-depth training in dialogue facilitation to develop skills needed to take civic action for positive social change. Students will facilitate the creation of spaces to communicate openly about contentious or divisive issues and will work towards breaking down destructive communication habits like avoidance, silence, or reactive responses, by enabling participants to feel truly listened to. Students will design conversations and facilitate dialogues that build deep listening and mutual understanding and will be trained to conduct dialogues when there is a need to intervene to support difficult conversations on campus and in their communities.
Civic Science Events
Tisch College organizes and supports several events that support the promotion and development of Civic Science and its engagement with the Tufts community, primarily a series of Civic Science Roundtables that connect contemporary and often polarizing science issues to our civic lives and responsibilities. Led by Dr. Garlick, the roundtables are designed as intimate, open-minded dialogues in which participants from diverse backgrounds speak about the personal and societal choices they need to consider when science issues intersect with their civic lives. The structured and facilitated nature of the dialogues allow participants to feel safe enough to reveal their personal and communal values on science issues in ways that break down stereotypes, inspire curiosity, and build empathy. Recent topics have included ancestry testing, the opioid epidemic, the vaccine debate, the planned parenthood controversy, genetically-modified food, and human cloning.
In addition, we are planning a series of university-wide Civic Science Educational Forums to serve as open conversations and information sessions on contemporary and often divisive public science issues. These forums will help participants consider their civic choices related to societal dimensions of scientific issues (e.g. sports-related head injuries) that can engage diverse constituencies within the broader university community.
Check back soon for a calendar of scheduled Civic Science events.
Although scientists sometimes promise certainty and persuasiveness to obtain support and influence, in fact the integrity of scientific practices relies on engaging with alternative views, testing assumptions, and allowing for generative doubt. A new program, conducted with support from the Templeton Foundation through the “Humility and Conviction in Public Lie” initiative, studies specific sociological, educational, and/or religious challenges and structures that may undermine intellectually humble discourse on divisive science issues and examines how such challenges may be overcome. We are developing innovative methods for modeling discussions as networks of ideas, with an analyst to rigorously assess the responsiveness of the discussants. That method is a contribution to the research on dialogue and deliberation. We also train faculty to teach students to maintain commitments to established evidence while, at the same time, remaining open to alternate frames, experiences, narratives, and values. Read more about this initiative.
We also offer a series of trainings to offer graduate students, post-docs, and faculty members the skills needed to communicate their research by learning to engage listeners as they contribute to a public understanding and enthusiasm about science. These workshops train participants to recognize the two-way communication tools needed to engage diverse audiences. When scheduled, you can find information on upcoming workshops in the Events section above.
Tufts Clinical and Translational Science Institute
Tufts CTSI, which has been funded by the NIH since 2008 and has partnerships with more than 39 organizations, works to acceleratethe translation of research into clinical use, medical practice, and health impact. It develops innovative approaches to civic engagement in the health sciences by addressing issues important to stakeholders, including patients, community leaders, clinicians, caregivers, and others who make medical and health decisions. Tisch College's Civic Science intiative is working with these stakeholders to provide them with perspectives, knowledge, skills, and awareness to fill crucial evidence gaps so they can make more informed health-related choices. Discussions of controversial or confusing scientific issues, such as participation in clinical trials, vaccines, healthcare access and affordability, and drug safety, serve as springboards for addressing community concerns about participation in clinical trials.