Democratization through Education in Medicine, technolOgy, and Science Lab (Demos Lab)



Picture of Rhetorica, the personification of rhetoric, as a "martial and regal" figure (quoting Michele Kennerly and Carly S. Woods in "Moving Rhetoric," in Rhetoric Society Quarterly, 2017). Picture citation: Mantegna Tarocchi, no. 23; from Wikimedia. The Demos Lab (pronounced as "day-moss") investigates how science, technology, and medicine are changing as new technologies and publics are able to participate in these domains, and how publics can more effectively participate. The Demos Lab is founded on a long-term commitment to conduct research that supports democratic engagement with scientific and technical subjects, better inclusion of diverse voices in such democratic engagement, and also rhetorically-informed and ethically-committed approaches to communicating complex information that bridge scientific and technical debates with public concerns. The work of the Demos Lab is grounded in the field of rhetoric. Rhetorical theory and practice, and its abiding commitment to education for democratic participation, provides the grounding for the lab’s work, which does not take democratization through better understanding of medicine, technology, or science as given or easy to achieve; rather, the Demos Lab explores the challenges of such democratizing missions because they are not given nor easy. 

Research Team

Image: Research team during Winter 2018 (left to right): Lia Black, Monica Bustos, Helen Cai, Paula Núñez de Villavicencio, Devon Moriarty.

Spring 2020 Research Assistants

Devon Moriarty looks at the camera smiling in a professional photo.Devon Moriarty, Doctoral Research Assistant

Devon Moriarty is a SSHRC-funded Ph.D, Candidate in the Department of English Language and Literature examining science and political communication in digital spaces. An expert on social-aggregation sites like Reddit, Moriarty has published in Social Epistemology on the r/science Ask-Me-Anything series, and in Rhetoric Review concerning debates about vaccine-related policy that unfolded in r/worldnews. Moriarty is working to understand how democratically-oriented online communities might productively contribute to the public understanding of science by capitalizing on the affordances of virtual platforms.

Danielle Griffin looking at camera in professional photo.Danielle Bisnar Griffin, Masters Research Assistant

Danielle Bisnar Griffin is a candidate for a Master of Rhetoric and Communication Design, (Co-op) in the Department of English Language and Literature. Her past research experience includes work on cognitive approaches to the study of language, corpus studies, lexicography and science communication. Her major research project analyzes the communication of genes and heredity in popular news magazines reporting on the first experiment in which humans were delivered to term after having undergone genetic modification. Danielle is interested in understanding the way we negotiate language of heredity and disability in the public sphere as research on synthetic genetic technologies continues to develop.

Undergraduate researcher Patricia Balbon looking at camera smiling in a professional photoPatricia Balbon, Undergraduate Research Assistant

Patricia Balbon is an undergraduate student taking the Honours Science program with a minor in Biology in the Society, Technology and Values option at the University of Waterloo. Her research interests focus on complex systems, with special attention to leveraging a network perspective. Culminations of this affinity has ranged from studying the policy network of gain-of-function research regulation to performing a network analysis of the cancer interactome for drug discovery. In her spare time, Patricia likes to tend to her plants and paint in watercolour.



Peer Reviewed

See the Publications page. Or see Demos Lab PI Prof. Ashley Rose Mehlenbacher's Google Scholar page.

Other Publications

Moriarty, D.* (2019). “Response to Hartelius: Building on Aggregate Ethos.” Social Epistemology Review and Reply Collective.

Mehlenbacher, A. R., Balbon, P.A.* & Griffin, D.B.* (2019). Lessons from Aristotle for Synthetic Biologists. PLOS Synbio Community. Public Library of Science Blog Network.

Mehlenbacher, A. R. (2019). Communicating science online increases interest, engagement and access to funds. The Conversation.

Griffin, D.B.*, Black, L.A.*, Balbon, A.P.*, & Mehlenbacher, A. R. (2019). Book Review Essay: Tales of Tiger Beetles and Other Citizen Sciences. East Asian Science, Technology and Society, 13(2).

Book Reviews with Scistarter

Our team as partnered with Scistarter to publish book reviews in a series dedicated to citizen science. Our reviews have appeared on the Public Library of Science Citizen Sci blog, Discover Magazine's "Citizen Science Salon," GotScience Magazine and Scistarter. Here are some books the team has reviewed:

The Field Guide to Citizen Science: How You Can Contribute to Scientific Research and Make a Difference by Darlene Cavalier, Catherine Hoffman, and Caren Cooper. Portland: Timber Press, 2020. Reviewed by Devon Moriarty. Available online:

Radiation Brain Moms and Citizen Scientists: The Gender Politics of Food Contamination after Fukushima by Aya Hirata KimuraDurham: Duke University Press, 2016. Reviewed by Ashley Rose Mehlenbacher. Available online:

The Sasquatch Seeker’s Field Manual: Using Citizen Science to Uncover North America’s Most Elusive Creature by David George Gordon. Mountaineers Books, 2015. Reviewed by Patricia Balbon. Available Online:

World Without Fish by Mark Kurlansky and Frank Stockton (Illustrator). Workman Publishing Company, 2014. Reviewed by Patricia Balbon. Available Online:

Citizen Science in the Digital Age: Rhetoric, Science, and Public Engagement by James Wynn. The University of Alabama Press, 2017. Reviewed by Lia Black. Available online:

Smitten by Giraffe: My Life as a Citizen Scientist by Anne Innis Dagg. McGill-Queen’s University Press, 2016. Reviewed by Danielle Griffin. Available online:

Citizen Science: Innovation in Open Science, Society and Policy edited by Susanne Hecker, Muki Haklay, Anne Bowser, Zen Makuch, Johannes Vogel and Aletta Bonn. University College London Press, 2018. Reviewed by Saeed Sabzian. Available online:

Citizen Science: Public Participation in Environmental Research by Janis L. Dickinson Rick Bonney, (eds). Cornell University Press, 2012. Reviewed by Lia Black. Available online:

Be the Change: Saving the World with Citizen Science, 2nd ed. by Chandra Clarke. Kindle, 2013. Reviewed by Devon Moriarty. Available online:

Citizen Scientist: Searching for Heroes and Hope in an Age of Extinction by Mary Ellen Hannibal. The Experiment, 2016. Reviewed by Danielle Griffin. Available online:

The Incidental Steward: Reflections on Citizen Science by Akiko Busch. Yale University Press, 2014. Reviewed by Patricia Balbon. Available online:

Bat Count: A Citizen Science Story by Anna Forrester. Arbordale Publishing, 2017. AND Moonlight Crab Count by Neeti Bathala, Jennifer Keats Curtis, and Veronica V. Jones (Illustrator). Arbordale Publishing, 2017. Reviewed by Lia Black. Available online:

Citizen Science: How Ordinary People Are Changing the Face of Discovery by Caren Cooper. Overlook Press: New York, NY. 2016. Reviewed by Ashley Rose Mehlenbacher. Available online:

The Rightful Place of Science: Citizen Science edited by Darlene Cavalier and Eric B. Kennedy. Consortium for Science, Policy, & Outcomes. 2016. Reviewed by Devon Moriarty. Available online:

Diary of a Citizen Scientist: Chasing Tiger Beetles and other New Ways of Engaging the World by Sharman Apt Russell. Oregon State University Press. 2014. Reviewed by Ashley Rose Mehlenbacher. Available online:


NE team at a Girls in STEAM event at the University of Waterloo
Image: Workshop for Girls in STEAM event by Mayor Dave Jaworsky hosted at the Institute for Quantum Computing. January, 2018.

Supported By

(This project's views represent those of the researchers, not the supporting organizations).


This research was supported by the Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council of Canada.

ERA Support Funding Agency Logo - Ontario Ministry of Research, Innovation, and Science

Support for this project is provided through an Early Researcher Award from the Ontario Ministry of Research, Innovation, and Science.

University of Waterloo logo

The University of Waterloo/SSHRC Seed Grant program also provided support for this project.

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The University of Waterloo's Faculty of Arts has also provided funding that supports this project.