Around the world there are widespread efforts to ensure that policy decisions are based upon a sound evidence base, and in particular to facilitate closer integration between the research and policy communities. This commentary provides an overview of the current situation in different parts of the world relating to the opportunities that exist for policy makers to assimilate scientific findings, as well as the existing barriers perceived by both the policy and research communities. Mutual trust and respect between the relevant parties emerge as crucial factors in successful collaboration. Skilled mediators are also considered essential to ensuring effective communication; this may be via third parties such as NGOs, or news services and online portals to convey, ‘translate’ and place in a policy context the scientific findings. Mechanisms for improving researchers’ communication skills as well as increasing their awareness of the need to communicate proactively with the policy community are also considered in order to inform future practice in this area.


With this commentary JCOM continues its analysis of the transformations of science journalism in the new media ecology. The purpose of the papers we present here is enriching the discussion raised in past issues and giving the Science communication community new insights on the role of digital media in shaping the way science is communicated, distributed and discussed by new actors and with new publics. What is the future of science journalism in the new ecosystem? In “Has blogging changed science writing?” Alice Bell discusses blogs' impact on science journalism, arguing that in some areas the changes related to the emergence of the web are overstated. Rather than crystal ball gazing into the future, we should realize it is up for debate. In “Web 2.0: netizen empowerment vs. unpaid labor” Carlo Formenti goes further, casting doubts on the utopian fantasies of knowledge democratization and urging us to focus on the new forms of power concentration and exploitation that are emerging within the system of science communication. Finally, in “The future of science journalism in Ghana” Bernard Appiah and colleagues argue in favour of the potential of the web as a tool to increase the quality and quantity of African science journalism. Yet they warn us: issues of access to both information and resources are still in place and threaten the promises of digital media.


Among the most interesting aspects of the changes in the media ecosystem a leading role is played by the impact of digital and networking technologies on the ways news reports are built. In this Jcom commentary, the issues of the relationship between digital storytelling and professional news production will focus on science journalism. The commentary will deal with theoretical reflections and practical examples of innovative experiences in which different narration methods were exploited for scientific information.


Genetic testing promises to put the ability to decide about our life choices in our hands, as well as help solve crucial health problems by preventing the insurgence of diseases. But what happens when these exams are managed by private companies in a free market? Public communication and marketing have proven to be crucial battlefields on which companies companies need to engage in order to emerge. This issue of JCOM tries to shed some light on the communication and marketing practices used by private companies that sell direct-to-consumer genetic testing, from single genetic mutations to whole genome sequencing.


What role and citizenship has the scientific thought on the web, or rather on the social side of the web? Does it benefit from the debate between peers and with the general public, or else does it only risk to become a monologue? How to deal with the number of instruments the Internet is able to provide in making, discussing and disseminating research? These are some of the questions tackled by the reflections from scholars and experts which were the basis for our debate.


In four steps – from Renaissance to the dawn of the 20th century – this issue explores some aspects of the history of book sciences, as research and popularisation instruments also playing a role in economy. Adrian Johns speaks about the origin of science books in the Renaissance. Then, through the papers respectively by Bruce Lewenstein and Paola Govoni, the focus moves to science books in 19th-century America and Italy. They demonstrate that, in both countries, science books were a stimulus to the establishment of a national scientific community. Finally, Francesco De Ceglia exemplifies the role played by agrarian catechisms in the process of spreading farming skills among landowners.


The purpose of this commentary is extending and enriching the discussion raised in the “Science Journalism and Power in the 21st Century” workshop, held last month in the context of MAPPE project at SISSA, Trieste. We collected three interviews of authors expert in communication and media on different fields strongly influenced by participatory communication practices: Anabela Carvalho (global warming and climate change), Pieter Maeseele (technological risks) and Denise Silber (‘eHealth’ and ‘Health 2.0’). The interviews therefore analyze three different perspectives of a more general issue: How is the ecosystem of scientific information changing by means of a new concept of ‘public’? Which are the new ways in which citizens produce and manage scientific information? What could be a new role for science journalism? These three interviews aim to delve, from a theoretical point of view, into the sociological framework of an ecosystem of information driven by active public participation in the communicative practices. Emphasis will be put on the way in which scientific knowledge is reconstructed and negotiated in the Web 2.0 arena: democracy in the knowledge society intrinsically depends on a fair outcome of this process. Nevertheless, the crisis of traditional media and journalist’s figure is threatening the democratization of science. In this sense, the social function of journalism is still – and will be – unescapable. The re-distribution of social power by means of Web 2.0 is a key issue, and new sensible communication practices and professionals are needed.


This is an introduction to the essays from the Jcom commentary devoted to the statute and the future of research in science communication. The authors have a long experience in international research in this domain. In the past few years, they have all been committed to the production of collective works which are now the most important references for science communication research programmes in the next few years. What topics should science communication research focus on and why? What is its general purpose? What is its real degree of autonomy from other similar fields of study? In other words, is science communication its 'own' field? These are some of the questions addressed by the in-depth discussion in this Jcom issue, with the awareness that science communication is a young, brittle research field, looking for a shared map, but also one of the most stimulating places of the contemporary academic panorama.


Museums have a great potential to facilitate the political engagement of citizens, intended not in the sense of taking part to the “party politics”, but as full participation in the systems that define and shape society.


In this commentary, we collected three essays from authors coming from different perspectives. They analyse the problem of power, participation and cooperation in projects of production of scientific knowledge held by users or peers: persons who do not belong to the institutionalised scientific community. These contributions are intended to give a more political and critical point of view on the themes developed and analysed in the research articles of this JCOM special issue on Peer-to-peer and user-led science. Michel Bauwens, Christopher Kelty and Mathieu O'Neil write about different aspects of P2P science. Nevertheless, the three worlds they delve into share the "aggressively active" attitude of the citizens who inhabit them. Those citizens claim to be part of the scientific process, and they use practices as heterogeneous as online peer-production of scientific knowledge, garage biology practiced with a hacker twist, or the crowdsourced creation of an encyclopedia page. All these claims and practices point to a problem in the current distribution of power. The relations between experts and non-experts are challenged by the rise of peer-to-peer science. Furthermore, the horizontal communities which live inside and outside the Net are not frictionless. Within peer-production mechanisms, the balance of power is an important issue which has to be carefully taken into account.


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