Communicating to and Engaging with the Public in Regulatory Science

Anthony Smith, Lucia Parrino, Domagoj Vrbos, Giulia Nicolini, Massimiano Bucchi, Melanie Carr, Junshi Chen, Leonie Dendler, Kannan Krishnaswamy, Davide Lecchini, Ragnar Löfstedt, Michelle Patel, Lucia A. Reisch, Didier Verloo, Ellen Vos, Fabiana Zollo, Barbara Gallani

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This paper presents selected highlights from the ‘Engaging with society’ session of EFSA’s third Scientific Conference ‘Science, Food and Society’ (Parma, Italy, 18-21 September 2018). The social dimension for scientific advisory bodies largely concerns science communication and public engagement. The political, economic and technological transformation of contemporary societies is challenging conventional structures and approaches in these areas. The disintermediation of communication and the proliferation of misinformation, it is argued, herald the onset of the post-truth society. A better understanding of the way individuals consume information today has led to the development of tools to guide mediators such as journalists and communication specialists in countering these trends. Public engagement can reinforce confidence in regulatory bodies and potentially contribute to the quality of the scientific process. Scientific advisory bodies in Europe have created strategies and mechanisms to engage the public that are designed to increase transparency and representativeness. To be effective, several engagement mechanisms are needed, although factors such as resource constraints, institutional culture and public/stakeholder attitudes may limit their development. In conclusion, a more vigorous role for social research is needed to place scientific risk assessment within broader socio-economic and political contexts. Social science expertise can help to define more impactful public information strategies and to explore the potential opportunities that engaged stakeholders and citizens can make to sustain and strengthen regulatory science.
Original languageEnglish
Article numbere170717
JournalEFSA Journal
Issue numberSupplement S1
Number of pages15
Publication statusPublished - Jul 2019
EventEFSA Third Scientific Conference 2018: Science, Food & Society - Parma, Italy
Duration: 18 Sept 201821 Sept 2018
Conference number: 3


ConferenceEFSA Third Scientific Conference 2018
Internet address


  • Science communication
  • Public engagement
  • Society
  • Regulatory science
  • Stakeholders
  • Trust

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