This introductory essay looks back on the two decades since the journal Public Understanding of Science was launched. Drawing on the invited commentaries in this special issue, we can see narratives of continuity and change around the practice and politics of public engagement with science. Public engagement would seem to be a necessary but insufficient part of opening up science and its governance. Those of us who have been involved in advocating, conducting and evaluating public engagement practice could be accused of over-promising. If we, as social scientists, are going to continue a normative commitment to the idea of public engagement, we should therefore develop new lines of argument and analysis. Our support for the idea of public engagement needs qualifying, as part of a broader, more ambitious interest in the idea of publicly engaged science.
public engagementmutual learningcitizen scienceco-creationinclusionscientific impactinterdisciplinaritysocial valuemotivation for engagementmethodologyresults sharingunpredictable group dynamicsemotional aspects