A new article co-authored by iHuman’s Warren Pearce and University of Leeds’ Greg Hollin analyses autism researchers’ views of public engagement, and the particular challenges they perceive in interactions with autism advocates. Drawing on interview data, they find that scientists understand engagement as shaped by two interacting factors. First, that the disagreement between autism advocates regarding future directions for autism research. Second, that these disagreements are attributed to autism itself, in that it is a heterogenous condition and that individuals with autism are frequently perceived to be uncompromising. In the article, Greg and Warren argue that these views of scientists should not be accepted uncritically, but are important when considering ways to improve public engagement within autism research. The case also speaks to wider debates about interactions between science and politics, and that where science has social and political implications, consensus-seeking may not always be an appropriate engagement strategy.
For more on the research, and the experiences of publishing social science in a scientific outlet, see Greg’s post on the Leeds THESP blog. The article is published open access in the Journal of Autism & Developmental Disorders and has been downloaded over 3000 times in the two months since publication.