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21/09/2003

This article will discuss and comment some of the results obtained by the application of the questionnaire "Public perception of Science and Technology". The questionnaire is a translated and adapted Portuguese version from the original in

21/09/2003

Through the years, Majorana's life - and his mysterious disappearance in particular - inspired manifold representations. The wide range of links to science, philosophy and literature have allowed deep reflections crossing the borders of genre: from theatre to fiction, from essays to novels and cartoons. Reconstructing the character of Majorana by thinking back to all the interpretations he has been given allows us to place him in a wider and more organic context, which goes beyond the functional aspects of fiction. In this wider prospective, we can clearly see why the still unresolved Majorana case has aroused the interest of so many diverse authors.

21/09/2003

The aim of the present research is to study the "collective imaginary" produced by the articles within scientific circulation, in order to understand the perception of science that is shaping among the public. It is meant to identify, based on the theoretical background of cognitive science and on a epistemological perspective, the cognitive maps that drive the analysis and the interpretation of scientific knowledge, in order to let the global sense built by single individuals' cognitions and interpretative acts arise; their paradigms of reference and the scientific imaginary being subtended. The results from this analysis have proven how important the role of collective scientific imaginary can be in a "knowledgeable society". Twelve cognitive maps have been deduced, and they represent the epistemological outlines the articles refer to. They have highlighted an ongoing general transition from mechanicist and reductionist paradigms of reference to other olistic and systemic ones, as well as the new role that technology has attained within our society and its own imaginary. What comes out of all of this, is therefore an always-tighter need for collaboration and cooperation among all the disciplines concurring to the building of our society and our science.

21/06/2003

This study analyses the image of Italian space activities given by national dailies in the period from February 2001 to July 2002, in order to understand Italians' view of "Italy in space". It also considers the role that space scientific research can play in the communication strategies of Italian space activities in the upcoming years and the possible ways to improve its image through mass media.

21/06/2003

In the field of scientific communication in Europe, science centres have gained increasing importance over the last ten years. Italy, beyond the City of Science in Naples, is also planning the set up of more science centres throughout the country. Their hands-on style makes them something between a museum and a fun fair and, beyond the issue of merit, no doubt the success of many science centres also depends on the fun offered. It is important then to be able to assess to what extent people can actually make use of the proposed themes. This report tries to point out the dialogue opportunities between science museums and people1. A questionnaire has been submitted to two scientific secondary schools in Trent and Busto Arsizio (Varese) as a pilot study in this research. A research of this kind should not limit itself to museums, because public opinion on scientific subjects is also influenced by more popular and widespread media such as newspapers and television. Together with people, museums should therefore also be able to make good use of these media and offer opportunities for investigating and going into detail about given topics that the other media deal with without leaving enough time for thinking them over.

21/06/2003

Over the last few years the media ­ and especially television ­ have focussed on presumed health emergencies such as mad-cow disease, genetically modified organisms (GMOs), the Di Bella cancer-cure case and the Lipobay case. Topics such as these have a strong emotional impact on public opinion and subscribe to the dictates of the ratings rather than following the more or less prescriptive rules of scientific communication. In a highly competitive environment, if the ratings prevail against information, it is obvious that news follows the rules of fiction, health reports become mere entertainment, and moderation and accuracy give way to triviality, overstatement and alarmism. The loyalty of the target audience becomes the ultimate aim of the communicator, because that is what the advertisers are interested in. There is no point in blaming the journalists, though they too share the responsibility of this phenomenon. The mechanism seems to be exactly the same for all kinds of "emergencies": immigration, criminality, weather changes, new diseases, war. The format prevails over the event. Communication depends less and less on the topic and more and more on the medium, the debate on GMOs being no exception.

21/03/2003

In the last few years, a continuous series of food alerts have caught the attention of the media and the public in Europe. First, eggs and pork contaminated with dioxins; then, "mad cow" disease, while, all along in the background, a battle against genetically modified plants has been in progress. These food alerts have had complex repercussions on the perception of risks associated with food production. Experts have often been divided over these issues, and the uncertainty of scientific data has been indicated on more than one occasion as one of the factors that influence risk perception. However, the most important factor seems to be undoubtedly the way in which the risk has been communicated (or not communicated) to the public. Therefore, risk communication analysis offers an excellent opportunity to understand the profound changes that are taking place in relations among the scientific community, mass media and other members of civil society now that they are fully aware that scientific and technological innovation, the real driving force of modern industrial society, is a source of development but also a source of risks which are not always acceptable. Within this different context, a debate open to all interested parties appears to have become a dire necessity for the "risk society", especially as far as food is concerned because food has extremely important psychological, ethical and cultural values.

21/03/2003

Compared to expert-to-expert - or peer-to-peer - communication, the language of popular science is characterised by a wider use of figurative devices. This applies to all forms of verbal and non-verbal communication. Specialized texts are characterised by a restricted and rigorous lexicon both in spoken and - even more so - in written language. Namely, a widespread use of terms which are monosemic, unambiguous and non context-dependent terms, and a minimum amount of natural linguistic choices. The few polysemic, ambiguous and context-dependent words encountered in a scientific text are highly functional, since meaning is mainly conveyed through field-specific terms. The same rules apply to the iconography of a scientific text, where most pictures are graphs, diagrams or schemes. Their purpose is to give the reader a visual photo-like equivalent of the concepts discussed in the text. These images are all the more effective thanks to the use of colours, external references, highlighting and other devices, which make them functional to their explanatory purpose.

21/03/2003

Terms such as gmo, genetic tests and pharmacogenomics, which were once used only by experts, belong today to everyday language. The new vocabulary of molecular biology shows an increase in the interest of society in scientific problems, and in particular the recent cultural supremacy of molecular biology. For all of us, the gene symbolizes progress and power, the hope of fighting incurable diseases, and the fear of terrifying genetic manipulations. These aspects become real events and characters in the Human Genome Project. But this great international project has also shown that the relation between science and society is changing. This event can actually be seen as a metaphor of science leaving academic laboratories to settle new areas of society. From economics to sociology, from epistemological discourse to bioethical debate, from medicine to basic research, in all these fields genome becomes the main topic of discussion and food for thought. Public attention to this international project has grown constantly throughout its development, and it peaked when science came into contact with the press.

21/09/2002

This paper is concerned with the interactions between information technology and the humanities, and focuses on how the humanities have changed since adopting computers. The debate among humanists on the subject initially focuses on the alleged methodological changes brought about by the introduction of computing technology. It subsequently analyses the changes in research that were caused by IT not directly but indirectly, as a consequence of the changes effected on society as a whole. After briefly summarising the history of the interactions between information technology and the humanities, the paper draws on literature to examine the way humanists have perceived the evolution of their disciplines. The paper concludes by fitting the phenomenon into a model of scientific revolution.

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