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Public Underst Sci. 2016 Jul;25(5):603-11. doi: 10.1177/0963662515579838. Epub 2015 Apr 29.

What is the public's role in 'space' policymaking? Images of the public by practitioners of 'space' communication in the United Kingdom.

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Instituto Universitário de Lisboa (ISCTE - IUL), DINÂMIA'CET, Lisboa, Portugal


Studies on experts' understanding of the public have mainly focused on the views of scientists. We add to the literature on constructions of the public by analyzing the views of decision-makers, professional science communicators and scientists involved in 'space' communication on the public and public participation in policy. Findings show that contextual situations and roles determine the way the public is conceptualised: the public is sophisticated and knowledgeable to participate in space activities/citizen science, but in matters of policy, a gullible image of the public is brought up. Despite the democratic talk on participation, practitioners delimited public involvement in policy in some way or other to protect their own power and decision-making capabilities. This conception of the public competes with the stated aims of scientific and political institutions for public engagement and the substantive value of public participation, leaving a limited role for the public in space policymaking.


astronomy and space exploration; discourse; practitioners; public images; public participation; space policy

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