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Might more harm be done than good when scientists and engineers engage with the public about new technology before it is fully developed? The case of hydrogen energy

Bellaby, P and Clark, AJ 2015, 'Might more harm be done than good when scientists and engineers engage with the public about new technology before it is fully developed? The case of hydrogen energy' , International Journal of Science Education, Part B: Communication and Public Engagement, 6 (3) , pp. 283-302.

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Abstract

We report consultation about hydrogen energy at the Hydrogen Centre in South Wales with members of the public in the region. The Centre's research staff guided tours and outside sociologists made the independent assessment presented here. Hydrogen energy is a technology under development. The question is as follows: Does any risk to its future in consulting the public ‘upstream’ of its full development outweigh any risk in not consulting them? The Hydrogen Centre was started in 2008. In 2011, it opened to three age groups: Baccalaureate students of 14, Tertiary College students of 18–19 and adult members of a Citizens’ Panel. The sociologists (1) observed how the Centre's prototype of micro-generation of hydrogen energy was presented; (2) conducted surveys before their visits—of what visitors knew and wanted to find out, and after—of what they learned; (3) facilitated deliberation in focus groups about what hydrogen implies both globally and for the region and (4) fed back the findings to a meeting of the Centre staff and others in the Low Carbon Research Institute for Wales (at Cardiff University, November 2011). In this paper, we focus on the reticence of Centre staff about the visits—for their research was incomplete and key equipment was lacking at the time. Yet the visitors appear to have learned about hydrogen energy, remedied some mistaken ideas and taken away positive impressions. We conclude that engaging with the public as the technology develops might not be a significant risk to research. Not to do so might be more of a risk.

Item Type: Article
Uncontrolled Keywords: Hydrogen energy, Upstream consultation, Risks, Benefits
Themes: Energy
Schools: Schools > School of Nursing, Midwifery, Social Work & Social Sciences
Journal or Publication Title: International Journal of Science Education, Part B: Communication and Public Engagement
Publisher: Routledge
Refereed: Yes
ISSN: 2154-8455
Related URLs:
Funders: The EPSRC Supergen Programme supported the project reported here [EP/EO40071/1] as part of the UK Sustainable Hydrogen Energy Consortium (UKSHEC)., The Strategic Research Investment Fund at Salford University supplemented the funding
Depositing User: AJ Clark
Date Deposited: 30 Sep 2015 08:51
Last Modified: 11 Nov 2016 09:54
URI: http://usir.salford.ac.uk/id/eprint/36706

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