Open Access Te Herenga Waka-Victoria University of Wellington
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Engagement by design: Engagement through design

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posted on 2024-03-26, 07:58 authored by Jo Bailey

The science communication/Public Engagement with Science (PES) literature suggests there is a disconnect between those who practice, and those who theorise in those domains. This thesis—undertaken using methodologies and practices from the field of design—explores novel ways to connect science communication/PES theory and practice in Aotearoa New Zealand. Through this process it reflects on the role of design in science communication, which has historically been used in a ‘downstream’ capacity with an emphasis on making accessible and attractive outputs.

The research undertaken for this thesis used design processes and artefacts to challenge assumptions about science communication, and to increase reflexivity (as called for in Salmon et al.’s 2017 paper, The Reflexive Scientist). The process undertaken with scientist-communicators shared elements of theory in an active, participatory way. As a result, the theory became practiceable: experienced in a way that meant they could enact it in their own future engagement design.

The central activity was a series of dialogical, participatory designed interventions informed by both design and science communication/PES theory and practice. These interventions developed into a structured workshop model where participants (scientists and researchers) reflexively unpacked and (re)designed science communication projects in ways that are underpinned by science communication/PES theory, and encouraged consideration of inherent power structures, motivations, inclusivity, co-production, equity, differing expertise, and Indigenous knowledge. The outcome is an engagement workshop toolkit called the Science Communication Laundromat that has been released under a Creative Commons licence. In addition, qualitative methods, such as interviews, structured group discussions and reflective writing, were used to examine participants’ experiences and explore the field of science communication in Aotearoa New Zealand.

This study is an innovative interdisciplinary fusion of science communication/PES and design, utilising applied research to explore its topics: using theory to inform practice, and through this thesis, contribute to further discourse and theory. In doing so, it suggests design’s role in science communication, in an ‘upstream’ capacity as part of an inter- or transdisciplinary project, can add value and catalyse outcomes that neither design nor PES would have achieved independently.


Copyright Date


Date of Award



Te Herenga Waka—Victoria University of Wellington

Rights License


Degree Discipline

Design; Science in Society

Degree Grantor

Te Herenga Waka—Victoria University of Wellington

Degree Level


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy

ANZSRC Socio-Economic Outcome code

130205 Visual communication; 130299 Communication not elsewhere classified

ANZSRC Type Of Activity code

3 Applied research

Victoria University of Wellington Item Type

Awarded Doctoral Thesis



Victoria University of Wellington School

Centre for Science in Society


Salmon, Rhian; Priestley, Rebecca