Article

27/08/2009

Public opinions toward emergent technologies may be highly dependent on the manner in which people are introduced to these technologies for the very first time. In this light, understanding how such first introductions are related to adolescents’ information seeking behaviors and their developing opinions may be particularly interesting because this target public can be considered to be not only future users of the technology but also future decision makers of its development. The present paper presents a case study of the introduction of ecogenomics among 246 adolescents who were asked to inform themselves about this technology and to write two essays: one that would reflect their personal opinions, and another that would reflect their advice to the Dutch government about further funding of ecogenomics research. Results showed that the Internet was by far their preferred source of information and that most adolescents held positive attitudes toward ecogenomics as expressed in essays that reflected their personal opinions and advice to others. In their perspective, ecogenomics was a positive development in science because of expected benefits concerning medical and environmental applications, such as the potential discovery of new antibiotics and the possible use in bioremediation.

20/07/2009

The present article investigates public understanding of HIV/AIDS related issues that touch the thought structure of common citizen, among the Indian public. Analysis is based on a representative sample collected from 10 states of India. The authors have also analysed the relative cultural distance at which men and women, as separate groups, could be placed. The relative cultural distance, for each of the selected issues, has been computed and it was found that men, as a group, are closer to scientific thought structure compared to women.

03/06/2009

Standards and Good Practice guidelines provide explicit criteria for maintaining quality and integrity in science. But research practices are now openly questioned. I defend the idea that the tension between norms and practices in scientific writing must be addressed primarily by the scientific community if quality of the sources in the process of science communication is to be guaranteed. This paper provides evidence that scientific writing and researchers’writing practices do not reflect expected quality criteria. Evidence is based on four complementary analyses of: (i) communication manuals, journals’ recommendations to authors and the norms they convey (ii) feedback given by reviewers (ii) interviews and questionnaires (iv) researchers’ written productions and writing practices. I show that researchers’ writing and communication practices are very often in total contradiction with the norms and standards the scientific community has established. Unless researchers can improve and guarantee quality and integrity of the sources, the whole system of science communication will be threatened.

18/05/2009

Effective training in key communications skills is critical for successful public engagement. However, what are the secrets to designing and delivering an effectual training course? This paper outlines key findings from a research study into communication training programmes for public engagement with STEM (science, technology, engineering and mathematics). The research focused on training in direct communication methods, (as separate from media training) and encompassed both trainers and trainees, the latter group spanning across both scientists and explainers. The findings indicated that training courses are effective at increasing involvement in science communication events and trainees feel more confident and able to engage due to training. An interactive style was found to be a key element of training courses. Demonstrations of good practice followed by own performance with feedback were also important, preferably involving a ‘real’ audience. A list of guidelines on best practice has been developed which offers practical advice.

30/04/2009

Brazilian research has grown intensely in all areas of microbiology, with the increase in the amount of governmental resources for the sector and the strengthening of a greater number of research groups. However, very few academic studies deal with research about teaching and science communication in microbiology. There is no in-depth study of how this topic is currently being divulgated in communication journals, didactic books and the Internet, or about the interest and the difficulties faced by researchers in communicating microbiology to the general public. This paper investigates academic production on science communication and the teaching of microbiology in Brazil and contextualizes the need for studies about the ways and means through which this activity is being carried out.

16/04/2009

Assessment of trends in the state of the environment constitutes one important aspect of efforts to achieve environmental sustainability. Assessments are often undertaken via indicators which measure progress towards environmental objectives and interim targets. This paper starts from the assumption that different types of environmental indicators have different implications for the public communication and the societal dialogue about the state of the environment and the measures needed to increase ecological sustainability. The paper concludes that it is important to evaluate environmental indicators on the basis of their communicative potential. It is demonstrated how science-based assessment of progress towards environmental objectives may fulfil different aims. Each of these aims may be linked to particular types of indicators, as well as to particular ideas of how to communicate uncertainties, and to particular views of the role of the public in the system of environmental objectives.

20/03/2009

One of the main purposes of weather forecasting is that of protecting weather-sensitive human activities. Forecasts issued in the probabilistic form have a higher informative content, as opposed to deterministic one, since they bear information that give also a measure of their own uncertainty. However, in order to make an appropriate and effective use of this kind of forecasts in an operational setting, communication becomes significatively relevant.The present paper, after having briefly examined the weather forecasts concerning Hurricane Charley (August 2004), tackles the issue of the communicative process in detail.The bottom line of this study is that for the weather forecast to achieve its best predictive potential, an in-depth analysis of communication issues is necessary.

24/02/2009

There is a compelling need to ensure that the points of view and preferences of stakeholders are fully considered and incorporated into natural resources management strategies. Stakeholders include a diverse group of individuals in several sectors that have an interest in how natural resources are managed. Typically, stakeholders with an interest in groundwater resources include groups who could be affected by the manner in which the resource is managed (e.g., farmers who need water for irrigation; municipalities and individuals who need drinking water, agencies and organizations that want to maintain in-stream flows to support ecosystems, etc.) Refugio County in South Texas provides an interesting case study since several groups of water users in the region are working with researchers at Texas A&M University-Kingsville (TAMUK) to develop decision-support models that incorporate stakeholder concerns. The focus of this paper is to provide a series of arguments and approaches about the ways in which stakeholder issues have recently been incorporated into environmental models, to briefly describe some of the TAMUK efforts to develop groundwater models that incorporate stakeholder inputs, and to present and discuss a method in which communication research can be used to obtain stakeholder preferences input into modeling efforts.

26/01/2009

Mouse-related research in the life sciences has expanded remarkably over the last two decades, resulting in growing use of the term “mouse model”. Our interviews with 64 leading Japanese life sciences researchers showed heterogeneities in the definition of “mouse model” in the Japanese life sciences community. Here, we discuss the implications for the relationship between the life sciences community and society in Japan that may result from this ambiguity in the terminology. It is suggested that, in Japanese life sciences, efforts by individual researchers to make their scientific information unambiguous and explanative are necessary.

19/12/2008

The knowledge deficit model with regard to the public has been severely criticized in the sociology of the public perception of science. However, when dealing with public decisions regarding scientific matters, political and scientific institutions insist on defending the deficit model. The idea that only certified experts, or those with vast experience, should have the right to participate in decisions can bring about problems for the future of democracies. Through a type of "topography of ideas", in which some concepts from the social studies of science are used in order to think about these problems, and through the case study of public participation in the elaboration of the proposal of discounts in the fees charged for rural water use in Brazil, we will try to point out an alternative to the deficit model. This alternative includes a "minimum comprehension" of the scientific matters involved in the decision on the part of the participants, using criteria judged by the public itself.

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