According to Beaufort, there are three levels of disseminating research results to the public.
Beaufort, M. (2016). Vom Verstehen zum Beteiligen. Texte vol. 18, 6–11. http://zukunft.orf.at/show_content.php?sid=147&pvi_id=1730&pvi_medientyp=t&oti_tag=Texte
According to Beaufort, there are three levels of disseminating research results to the public:
Stage 1: “Public Understanding of Science” (PUS): the idea behind public understanding of science is to make scientific findings more accessible to non-scientists. It started in the 1980s, when it became apparent that there was a crisis of confidence in research. PUS is characterized by one-way communication from scientists to the public. Examples are prime-time science shows on television.
Stage 2: “Public Engagement with Science” (PES): PES was born, when it became clear that one-way communication could not solve the issue of detachment between science and society. If the goal of PUS is the scientification of society, the goal of PES is the socialization of society. One-way communication is replaced by a dialogue between science and society. Research and research questions are seen in a societal context and are being discussed as such.
Stage 3: “Public Participation in Scientific Research” (PPSR): PPSR goes beyond information and discussion - its goal is that society actively participates in scientific research on a level playing field. PPSR is enabled by online communication and characterized by a three-way communication, where citizens talk to each other and with researchers (Bucchi and Trench 2014, closed access).
As an example, let’s consider the approach of Responsible Research and Innovation Initiative (RRI) of the European Commission. RRI “is an approach that anticipates and assesses potential implications and societal expectations with regard to research and innovation, with the aim to foster the design of inclusive and sustainable research and innovation.” To reach this goal, RRI promotes public engagement with participatory elements. For example, it is foreseen that “societal actors (researchers, citizens, policy makers, business, third sector organisations, etc.) work together during the whole research and innovation process in order to better align both the process and its outcomes with the values, needs and expectations of society.” One instrument in this context is participatory research actions. RRI can, therefore, be classified as a Stage 2 approach, with certain elements from Stage 3.