Bridging the Gap Between Science and Society

As ordinary citizens, we have a habit of leaving it to science to make decisions which might impact significantly on our future. We throw up our hands and say, ‘science will sort this out’. In so doing, we successfully distance ourselves from any responsibility, calling foul when we feel we have been misrepresented. The question for us is; how might the public interact with science? 

On the other hand, the time has come for science to create relationships with the public sector. The initiative cannot be one sided, as without it science’s social license is likely to be denied. I recall a decade ago when a CRI was found to be experimenting with genetically modified corn, causing an uproar from which we have never fully recovered.

Citizens need to understand the time it takes to develop and test new ways of doing things, let alone the funding and support required. Science cannot satisfy the ‘instant fix’ mentality that is prevalent in our society, i.e. the reinstatement of our rivers and seashores. What we are pumping onto our land now will take many years to manifest, let alone improve.

It is a long trial and error process. We honor relatively small players slogging it out to offer us a better future, think Glen Herud of Happy Cow fame or Dugald Hamilton of Respond. These people, although not scientists, must be recognised as playing their part in creating a better land use future.

In my judging role with the New Zealand Hi Tech Awards, I am happy to see the growing representation of Agritech and was very excited to meet Executive Director, Peter Wren-Hilton, during the judging process. Hopefully this will help bridge the gap between scientists and society and acknowledge that we all need to pull together to create a better future.

The marvelous thing about our workshops is that we have a history of bringing professionals and citizens together to develop collective insight. Below we have some comments, from the science sector, about our workshop:

Craig Osbourne, Carme Ag Ltd

"The food-agricultural industry is facing potential disruption on an unprecedented scale. This requires us to rethink why people buy our products and to understand what attributes they truly value. The Britten Institute Design Thinking course is a brilliant introduction to the design process; practical, interesting and powerfully delivered by an experienced practitioner. I believe that it is crucial that our agribusiness sector is exposed to this thinking to help prepare us for the challenges that lie ahead."

Melissa Robson, Landcare  

“I am an environmental scientist and I spend my time grappling with complex and conflict- laden issues such as how to manage land and water to achieve social, cultural economic and environmental outcomes. This type of research demands an integrated research approach, within which both science thinking, multiple knowledge bases and systems thinking are important. What Dorenda’s design thinking workshop brought to my work (and has the potential to bring to a wider scientific audience) is to help build on the ‘what was’ and ‘what is’ of systems thinking, to include the ‘what could be’ – an essential element of tackling our most entrenched environmental issues.”

Carolyn Mander, Lincoln Research & Innovation

“A stimulating workshop! There is definitely a place for Design Thinking and 'The Britten Institute’s Design Principles' within the research science environment, particularly within science teams and in the development and execution of research programmes.”

Illustration By Agnieszka Parr, Momentum Creative Ltd.

Illustration By Agnieszka Parr, Momentum Creative Ltd.