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22/10/2007

Near the turn of the Century, a woman in her 90s from Dodge City, Kansas was riding her horse near the Pecos River and she described it as a sea of saltgrasses...You had to be very close to the river to see it because the grass was so high You could drink the water out of the springs in this area. I used to ride down to the Pecos River on horseback...There was a lot more water in it back then. We grew cantaloupes...and people were amazed at how sweet they were... We stopped because the water [became] was too salty. In 1903, fresh watercress and ferns were growing at Independence Springs [on the Lower Pecos River]...and there were pools of catfish and silver bass. Residents along Independence Creek sold minnows and other bait fish they took from the river. We had a terrible flood in 1941 and 1942 which breached Zimmerman Dam. The river at some places was 10 miles wide. Floodwater covered the valley and the dam was washed out. It seems there is always less water in the Pecos than we need... I think the water quality is worse now-- not that the Pecos River was ever beautiful and clear. When my grandfather got here 110 years ago, they had a lot of water problems then. The prospect of fixing the saltcedar problem and making this area come back the way it was 100 years ago looks bleak for to me...I don't know if we can do that --Quotes from long-time residents of the Pecos River of Texas

22/10/2007

Sometimes scientists live real dramas or undergo social and psychological conflicts which have a positive or negative influence on the development and recognition of their research, discoveries and inventions in society, including the way they are recorded in history. This being so, the question is: to what extent can science be communicated to the public at large by the use of scientists' biographies as a motivational strategy? The controversy arises from the fact that usual (classical) science has traditionally argued for the separation (or de-linking) of the research (the object) from the researcher (the subject).Thus, if the above-mentioned motivational strategy is used in scientific communication, it could break a dominant methodological trend and consequently lead to a questioning of the myth of axiological neutrality in science. The communication of science by means of scientists' biographies could be useful for reaching a specific public, more directed towards emotional aspects, thereby awakening its interest in science, even amid cultural differences and in environments where interest in science and its utility is lacking. It could also reveal human aspects of the everyday life of scientists, bringing them closer to the public at large, which would contribute to the dissemination of science and knowledge.

20/09/2007

We have analyzed the popularization activities undertaken by ten thousand CNRS researchers by means of their annual reports for the years 2004, 2005 and 2006. This is the first time that such an extensive statistical study on science popularization practices is carried out. Our main findings are : - the majority of researchers is not involved in popularization (51% has not done any popularization over the three-year period, two thirds have been involved in no more than one popularization action). - popularization practices are extremely diverse, both at the individual level (we have identified three subpopulations that feature distinctive attitudes towards popularization), and at the level of scientific disciplines (researchers in Humanities are twice as active as the average), as well as in laboratories or geographical regions. - the number of actions reported in 2005 greatly increased compared to 2004 (+ 26%), while they slightly diminished in 2006.

20/09/2007

This paper relates to a special case of science-society mediation set up during the Science et Cité festival 2005. This national event took place in about twenty cities in Switzerland to promote a closer cooperation between science and society via art (theatre, music, dance, exhibitions, cinema, etc.), in order to reach the population at large. Results on the profile of the public, the role played by the cultural institutions involved, the motives of the visitors and the role of art in the science-society dialogue show that the goals aimed at by the festival's organisers were only partially reached. Moreover, the analyses shed light on the complex relation between art, science and society in public understanding of science activities.

20/09/2007

This article introduces a study on the websites of several European public research institutions that aims at identifying the science communication model chosen and implemented online with the purpose of reaching different target publics. The analytical approach takes into account a number of indicators: from the institutional identity to the scientific features, from the interactive services to the internationalisation level, in order to evaluate whether the web provides an added value in the adopted communication model and in building a relation with the users. Lights and shades emerge from this study in which good practices side examples of a much weaker science communication approach, outlining a general context where a public research institution website has been still used as a presentation tool and its interactive opportunities have not been capitalised.

21/06/2007

Since the first pioneering balloon flight undertaken in France in 1783, aerial ascents became an ordinary show for the citizens of the great European cities until the end of the XIX century. Scientists welcomed balloons as an extraordinary device to explore the aerial ocean and find answers to their questions. At the same time, due to the theatricality of ballooning, sky became a unique stage where science could make an exhibition of itself. Namely, ballooning was not only a scientific device, but a way to communicate science as well. Starting from studies concerning the public facet of aerial ascents and from the reports of the aeronauts themselves, this essay explores the importance of balloon flights in growing the public sphere of science. Also, the reasons that led scientists to exploit “the show of science aloft” (earning funds, public support, dissemination of scientific culture…) will be presented and discussed.

21/06/2007

This paper addresses the role of museums in education in science and technology through the discussion of a specific project entitled EST “Educate in Science and Technology”. The Project puts together methodologies and activities through which museums can be used as resources for long-term project work. In-service training for teachers, work in class with learning kits or with materials brought in by a Science Van, and visits to the museum are planned and developed jointly by museum experts and teachers. The Project proposes a teaching and learning model which sees the museum experience as central and integral part of a teaching and learning process with more effective outcomes. The analysis of the Project activities and methodologies is based on the work carried out at the National Museum of Science and Technology Leonardo da Vinci, which perceives the learner (the visitor) at the heart of its educational methodologies and provision.

21/03/2007

This paper summarizes key findings from a web-based questionnaire survey among Danish scientists in the natural sciences and engineering science. In line with the Act on Universities of 2003 enforcing science communication as a university obligation next to research and teaching, the respondents take a keen interest in communicating science, especially through the news media. However, they also do have mixed feeling about the quality of science communication in the news. Moreover, a majority of the respondents would like to give higher priority to science communication. More than half reply that they are willing to allocate up to 2% of total research funding in Denmark to science communication. Further, the respondents indicate that they would welcome a wider variety of science communication initiatives aimed at many types of target groups. They do not see the news media as the one and only channel for current science communication.

21/03/2007

We inhabit an age in which economic progress in the European Union is equalized to more European research and better communication of that European research to the public. In highly developed Western democracies this implies an important role for the public as well as the mass media, both actors in a transforming public sphere. Beyond a call for more communication and more scientific literacy, the discourse has shifted to a call for more engagement and more participation on behalf of the citizen. There is a widespread sentiment however that the discipline of science communication is at a crossroads. In this paper it is argued that in a context of life politics and an increasing displacement of politics, one has to account for the trajectories of issue formation and the detours of public-ization to understand the dynamics of techno-scientific issues.

21/12/2006

This article presents some of the challenges faced in developing an interactive exhibit on nanoscience and nanotechnology in Brazil. Presenting a scientific-technological area which is still in formation and which is little known by the population leads to a (re)consideration of the role of museums and science centers in the conformation and consolidation of scientific practice itself. Museographically, the exhibit deals with the challenge of making matter visible in an expression which is distant from the human perception. Some reflections are presented here on the option of musealization chosen which come from a broader evaluation of the exhibit.

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