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Sipping Science: The Interpretative Flexibility of Science Cafés in Denmark and Japan


Science cafés were originally conceived as an informal, dialogue-based venue for public participation in science. The first science cafes took place in the United Kingdom and France in 1997-98. Two formats—one featuring a single spea¬ker (United Kingdom) and one with a panel of speakers and a moderator (France)—resulted from these first initiatives. Since then, science cafies have been adapted to other sociocultural contexts, and today, science cafes are being conducted in many different countries and for many different purposes. We examine the emergence and development of science cafes in Denmark and Japan with particular focus on the role of science and technology studies (STS), national contexts of science communication policy, and cultures of public participation. We find that in both countries, despite different expectations of public deliberation about science and technology, science cafes have been easily embedded in the “new” scientific governance programs (). This is mainly due to institutional support in the national research systems and the involvement of STS scholars who, in their support of public participation in science and dialogue-based science communication, have advocated science cafes as a meaningful way to intervene in science-society relationships. “Sip¬ping science” in a science cafe, enabling public participation in science deliberations, has interpretative flexibility, appealing to a wide variety of people and stakeholders engaged in public communication of science and technology.