Article

21/09/2005

Florence's La Specola Museum stirs up strong emotions. Among its collections, the valuable anatomical wax models created between the end of 17th and the beginning of 18th century stand out owing to their marvellous and provocative nature. The aim of this essay is to analyse the communication models epitomised by some of these works by means of historical semiotics, to nourish the widespread, but often underestimated assumption that science and the means used to spread it have always been influenced by intellectual suppositions and constantly interact with contemporary culture.

21/09/2005

The objective of this article is to present a panorama of the way in which journalistic coverage of science and technological themes is being carried out in Latin America, having as a case study seven newspapers of significant impact in the region. We analyzed all stories published by the science section during all the month of April 2004, in the following newspapers: La Nación, Argentina; El Mercurio, Chile; Mural, Mexico; El Comercio, Ecuador; O Globo, Folha de S. Paulo and Jornal do Commercio/Pernambuco, Brazil. A total of 482 texts were collected. The methodology joins quantitative and qualitative analysis. There are very few studies on science journalism in Latin America and even fewer that seek to explore a comparison among countries. We believe that studies such as ours can provide subsidies to stimulate the improvement of journalistic coverage of scientific and technological issues.

21/09/2005

Several researchers operating in the sociological field have recently theorised that genetics and biotechnologies are at the core of the public perception of science. The present study aims at verifying empirically whether or not this is mirrored in Italian mass media, as well as at analysing the topics most frequently present in Italian newspapers and the economic and editorial reasons behind the results of editorial choices. Besides, it provides statistics about the major Italian newspapers published in the last third of 2002. This period has been chosen because some important news was published in December: it consequently offered the chance to carry out a long-term analysis as well as a study of the most important differences - in content and editorial lay-out - between scientific articles which are published in the appropriate sections inside the newspaper and those which make the front page. Ours are going to be purely quantitative considerations; but, from the point of view of the content, the data are sufficient to identify various narrative currents. These currents could be the object of further research on the frames used to contextualize the news and the reasons (anthropological, socio-cultural and editorial) for the way they are used by editorial staffs.

21/06/2005

The image and perception of science and of scientists is a crucial topic, above all with regards to younger generations, the human capital of the future. For this reason, the National Research Council (CNR), in 2004, asked the IRPPS institute (Istituto di ricerche sulla popolazione e le politiche sociali) to carry out a sample survey of 800 people between the ages of 18 and 29 on the topic. Science and new technology emerged as the topics of most interest, in addition to medicine, history and economics. Scientific content in the mass media is considered to be satisfactory, whereas education in the field of science is considered to be less than satisfactory, above all in relation to the work environment. However, if research in Italy seems weak in the eyes of young people, scientists are not seen the same way but are considered society's second most important profession after that of the entrepreneur. The problem of trust in science is due, above all, to the politics of research, which do not encourage adequate investment in public and private sectors. A factor analysis technique was applied in order to identify models of attitude towards science of various subgroups within the population.

21/06/2005

The article proposes a reflection on science communication and on the communicative processes characteristic to the production of new-found knowledge. It aims to outline the role that sociology can play within this frame for greater understanding. The article first defines the main evolutionary trends in scientific research in recent decades, with particular reference to the emergence of new social actors. Following on from this, it will look at some of the epistemological conditions that may strengthen the sociologist's role in the cognition of scientific production. Using this as a premise, we will look at a typology for science communication and its components, as well as some of its governing principles. The conclusion of the article indicates the added value that can be gained from the use of such a model, with the particular aim of identifying indicators that allow the evaluation of scientific research in sociological terms as well as those already in existence.

21/03/2005

In 1995, journalist Dava Sobel's Longitude caused an earthquake in the history of science community. The present article analyses how only recently historians of science have fully realized the novelty the book represented. In the meantime, the international success of popular books by journalists on the history of science has become a well-known phenomenon. The author suggests that the huge publishing success of Sobel's book ­ the "Sobel Effect" ­ has provoked three main kinds of reaction among historians: rejection, detachment, and imitation. Which of the three strategies is the best, for both public and authors?

21/03/2005

Most universities in the United States have little or no idea about how the public perceives the importance of research done at these institutions. Learning whether the public believes academic research is valuable, meaningful, and practical has implications for higher education, if the public believes that university research is of little worth. This project utilized naturalistic and qualitative methods to learn how alumni perceived the importance of research at a major public university with a heavy concentration in research (Texas A&M University). Long interviews using open-ended questions were conducted with 133 alumni at 33 locations in Texas. Interviews were transcribed, unitized, and coded using qualitative methods, and themes were identified. Findings provide insights into whether the public believes university research is important, how the public learns about research, whether public relations programs are effective, the importance of research and teaching, and the types of research the public wants universities to pursue. A framework is proposed to learn about how well the public understands science and to measure the effectiveness of media and education programs to raise both science awareness and understanding of science.

21/12/2004

The objective of the present paper is an attempt to measure the public understanding of science in the area of health and hygiene and test the efficacy of "cultural distance model". A pre-tested open-ended questionnaire was used for administering cross-sectional surveys at a religio-cultural festival in India. 3484 individuals were interviewed and responses were coded and entered to construct computer database. The data was used for determining the cultural distance of five scientific concepts from the quotidian life of the target population. In developing countries, the formal system of modern education operates as a strong determinant in shaping cultural structures of thoughts prevalent among the citizens. There exists a cultural distance between the scientific structure of configuring natural occurrences and peoples' complexity of thoughts. The distance varies significantly across the concepts that were subjected to the inspection and is a function of the nature of scientific information.

21/09/2004

A feature of the management of natural resources in the coastal zone is that it involves multiple stakeholders. It has been suggested that the effectiveness of coastal management relies on the cooperation of this multitude of stakeholders in decision-making. This study reports on the findings of an investigation into the modes of interaction used by coastal researchers to communicate with stakeholders. A qualitative research methodology was used through both telephone and in-depth face-toface interviews to elucidate the mechanisms of interaction and, in turn, produce a typology of interaction modes. It was found that there were five main modes of interaction: Limited; Mediator Achieved; Key Stakeholder; Full Interaction and Mixed and that the discipline area in which the researcher worked did not dictate their preferred mode of interaction. It was concluded that although there are a number of limitations to effective participation, these interactions have significant implications for meaningful participation in the management of coastal resources.

21/09/2004

In The Areopagitica, his most important work of prose, John Milton mentions Galileo as the illustrious martyr who fought for the freedom of thought. The name of the great scientist is repeated several times in the English poet's epic masterpiece: Paradise Lost. In three different passages of the poem, Milton in fact celebrates the "Tuscan Artist" and his crucial achievements in astronomy. Nevertheless, in a subsequent passage, the poet addresses the Copernican issue without openly defending the heliocentric theory confirmed by Galileo's discoveries. In fact, he neither embraces the Copernican system nor the Ptolemaic one, but instead compares them, following a dialectic method where one cannot fail to notice an echo of Galileo's Dialogue Concerning the two Chief World Systems. Milton's literary work presents images of astronomy at that time, thus offering a valuable historical example of scientific communication through art.

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