Public Policy Center, University of Nebraska


Date of this Version


Document Type



PytlikZillig L, Hutchens M, Muhlberger P, Gonzalez F, Tomkins A (2018) Deliberative Public Engagement with Science: An Empirical Investigation, SpringerBriefs in Psychology, Cham, Switzerland.


This book is licensed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License


The purpose of this book is to share some results and the data from four studies in which we used experimental procedures to manipulate key features of deliberative public engagement to study the impacts in the context of deliberations about nanotechnology. In this chapter, we discuss the purpose of this book, which is to advance science of public engagement, and the overarching question motivating our research: What public engagement methods work for what purposes and why? We also briefly review existing prior work related to our overarching goal and question and introduce the contents of the rest of the book.

Given the potential for negative—or at least controversial—effects of new technologies upon the societies in which various publics must live, what could be more democratic than promoting public involvement in decisions about those new technologies? Unless, of course, it turns out that public involvement, which can sometimes be costly, is ineffective, unnecessary, or actually makes things worse. Some have suggested this may be the case (e.g., Sunstein, 2000, 2002), but, for better or worse, public engagement with and about new technologies is happening all around us. Our interest in studying such public engagement—the topic of this book—is to learn how to design it for the better.