Science education and research dissemination are still based on the old-fashioned top-down method where the expert conveys scientific concepts to a passive audience (a class full of students, readers of a publication, audience at a conference or viewers of a TV show). Audience passivity is sometimes overcome in educational activities that require interactive participation by the public, but always under the guidance of a facilitator or a moderator. This method has proven to be insufficient in conveying knowledge about issues where social perception is crucial for grasping an understanding of its present condition as well as its future evolution. In issues such as environmental impact and climate change, with the ongoing hot debate on public opinion and conflicts of interest in the background, the public is much more than a passive witness, a fact that should be taken into account when undertaking outreach activities.
The research community and the specific departments linked to them, such as our Lab of Education, Dissemination and Public Outreach (LEDIC), seek to communicate the knowledge that is being produced inside our research institutions to society. However, in our field – climate and climate change – we must find new ways to reach the public. We need to develop systems that allow people to stop being passive recipients of information, and start becoming active individuals who actively engage in the social construction of knowledge. This new Science in Society (SiS) outreach model focuses on self discovery in education, emotion, entertainment and participation in popularization of research, and in stimulus, surprise and criticism in communication.