The Physiology of Imagined Publics: From a Defi cit to an Ambivalence Model

Gisle Solbu
This paper draws on the concept of imagined lay persons (ILP) to investigate how scientists working in the fi elds of bio-and nanotechnology perceive the public and how these imaginaries facilitate or hinder engagement activities. Based on 37 in-depth interviews with bio-and nanotechnology scientists, I explore how scientists construct imaginaries of publics that may shape the ways in which they address the public, perceive the benefi ts of public engagement activities, and form communication
more » ... rategies. The paper argues that scientists' accounts of the public are characterised by ambivalence regarding what the public is, the public's knowledge and the public's ability to take part in scientifi c processes. Thus, the paper proposes a more comprehensive approach to understanding ILPs than provided by previous studies, which have focused on the attribution of knowledge defi cits and related fears of protest and resistance.