Beverly Gibbs

In her PhD thesis, Beverly Gibbs developed a typology of the scientific citizens based on a wide literature analysis. In particular, five different kinds of citizens are considered:

  • Recipient citizen: it refers to citizens as they were conceived in the context of the Public Understanding of Science, i.e. passive individuals enjoying the rights to be informed about scientific developments and contents
  • Consumer citizen: this concept refers to citizens as “consumer” of scientific contents, for entertainment, personal interests, professional activities or other reasons
  • Dialogic citizen: this notion refers to citizens as “stakeholders” in the political issues connected to science and technology and therefore as active players in public debate on science, able to interact on an equal basis with traditional science players (policy makers, researchers, etc.)
  • Epistemic citizen: in this case, the concept refers to citizens fully involved with the research process, at different levels (identification of the research questions, research design, research implementation, research-based innovation, etc.)
  • Activist citizen: this concept refers to citizens expressing an antagonistic stance towards science and technology.

Such a typology is developed in the following table.

Recipient Citizen Consumer Citizen Dialogic Citizen Epistemic Citizen Activist Citizen
Literature base Public Understanding of Science Science Centres


Public Engagement with Science Patient Involvement

Citizen science




sources and

attributes of


“Everyone”, homogenous

Passive, receptive

Ready to be educated, enthused



To be excited about/supportive of science and technologies



Demographically “representa-tive“


Stakeholders-identity tied into issue



Socially recruited


Polarised “unwelcome”


Rights of citizens Clear, timely information that can be trusted To know what scientists do

Be given information is an entertaining and interesting way

To assert some level of influence on future issues that will ultimately affect them To be intimately involved in issues that affect them directly

To be able to contribute to the endeavour

To have their own expertise recognised

To make up their own minds

To find and pursue solutions that work for them

Personal conscience is greater than allegiance to establishment


of citizens

To act in accordance

with information

To trust expert knowledge above other forms

To direct own resources to consuming science To speak for the public they

To offer something of themselves which will later be of more general benefit To defend a wider public, sometimes global

To make a personal commitment to the topic/cause


Modes and Styles


Science Centres

Informal science events eg busking, café scientifique

Science festivals

Bright Club

Formal dialogue eg Sciencewise

Informal dialogue eg events at science centres and festivals

Citizen science

Patient involvement