Essay

14/10/2019

Can we really say what type of story has impact on us, and what type of story does not? Evidence suggests that we can. But we need to better understand the way that stories work on us, at a neural and empathetic level, and better understand the ways that the elements of stories, such as structure and metaphor work. By combining scientific research with the deeper wisdom of traditional storytelling we have both a deep knowledge married to scientific evidence — which can be very powerful tools for science communicators.

14/06/2019

We explore and discuss the diverse motives that drive science communication, pointing out that political motives are the major driving force behind most science communication programmes including so-called public engagement with science with the result that educational and promotional objectives are blurred and science communication activities are rarely evaluated meaningfully. Since this conflation of motives of science communication and the gap between political rhetoric and science communication practice could threaten the credibility of science, we argue for the restoration of a crucial distinction between two types of science communication: educational/dialogic vs promotional/persuasive.

14/06/2019

Advances in 21st century genetic technologies offer new directions for addressing public health and environmental challenges, yet raise important social and ethical questions. Though the need for inclusive deliberation is widely recognized, institutionalized risk definitions, regulation standards, and imaginations of publics pose obstacles to democratic participation and engagement. This paper traces how the problematic precedents set by the 1975 Asilomar Conference emerge in contemporary discussions on CRISPR, and draws from a recent controversy surrounding field trial releases of genetically modified mosquitoes to explicate the ways in which these precedents undermine efforts to engage publics in decisions at the science-policy interface.

23/01/2018

Visual narratives, such as comics and animations, are becoming increasingly popular as a tool for science education and communication. Combining the benefits of visualization with powerful metaphors and character-driven narratives, comics have the potential to make scientific subjects more accessible and engaging for a wider audience. While many authors have experimented with this medium, empirical research on the effects of visual narratives in science communication remains scarce. This review summarizes the available evidence across disciplines, highlighting the cognitive mechanisms that may underlie the effects of visual narratives.

20/07/2017

Japan's policy of “public understanding of science” (PUS) has shifted to “science communication” since 2003. That year, there were a number of simultaneous developments with regard to science communication. The key report that advocated for the promotion of science communication and a textbook on science communication were published then. The most important consequence was that the report triggered a policy change at the Ministry of Education, Culture, Sports, Science and Technology (MEXT). The following year, MEXT published the White Paper on Science and Technology 2004, the main theme of which was concerned with science communication. Although the shift may have begun as a somewhat top-down contrivance, it has subsequently sunk down firm roots throughout Japan. In 2011 the Japanese Association for Science Communication was founded. People's awareness of science communication was significantly changed by the Great East Japan Earthquake that occurred on March 11, 2011. Why was such a policy shift possible? How did such a cascade effect occur? This paper will discuss the reasons behind these phenomena.

20/07/2017

The history of public communication of science in Spain is yet to be written. Few academic studies exist that have tackled this subject. The political and economic history of the country have marked out the evolution of this discipline, which burst into the country at the end of the 20th century with the proliferation of initiatives such as the creation of science museums, the building of the Spanish Science Foundation and the development of a public Scientific Information service. Despite these efforts, the level of scientific culture for Spanish people is one of the lowest in Europe [OECD, 2016].

09/11/2016

In response to Weingart and Guenther [2016], this essay explores the issue of trust in science communication by situating it in a wider communications culture and a longer historical period. It argues that the popular scientific culture is a necessary context not only for professional science, but also for the innovation economy. Given that the neutrality of science is a myth, and that science communication is much like any other form of communication, we should not be surprised if, in an innovation economy, science communication has come to resemble public relations, both for science and for science-based innovations. The public can be sceptical of PR, and may mistrust science communication for this reason.

21/09/2016

Factors that influence reception and use of information are represented in this koru model of science communication using the metaphor of a growing plant. Identity is central to this model, determining whether an individual attends to information, how it is used and whether access to it results in increased awareness, knowledge or understanding, changed attitudes or behaviour. In this koru model, facts are represented as nutrients in the soil; the matrix influences their availability. Communication involves reorganisation of facts into information, available via channels represented as roots. When information is taken up, engagement with it is influenced by external factors (social norms, support and control) and internal factors (values, beliefs, attitudes, awareness, affect, understanding, skills and behaviour) which affect whether the individual uses it to form new knowledge.

07/06/2016

"Genetically Modified Organisms" are not a consistent category: it is impossible to discuss such a miscellaneous bunch of products, deriving from various biotech methods, as if they had a common denominator. Critics are too often pre-emptively suspicious of peculiar risks for health or the environment linked to this ill-assorted ensemble of microorganisms, plants or animals: yet, even before being unscientific, the expression "GMO(s)" has very poor semantic value. Similarly, claims that recombinant DNA technology is always safe are a misjudgement: many unsatisfactory "GMOs" have been discarded, as has happened also for innumerable agri-food outcomes, obtained via more or less traditional field and lab methods. The scientific consensus, i.e. the widespread accord among geneticists, biologists and agriculturalists, maintains that every biotech invention has to be examined case by case, evaluating the unique profile of each new organism ("GMO" or otherwise): to assess its safety, the technique(s) used to produce it are irrelevant. Therefore, in considering "green" biotechnologies, a triple mantra should be kept in mind: 1. product, not process; 2. singular, not plural; 3. a posteriori, not a priori. Both people's and law-makers' attitude to agricultural biotechnologies should be reoriented, and this is an interesting task for science communicators: they should explain how meaningless and misleading the "GMO" frame is, debunking a historical, ongoing socio-political blunder, clarifying to the public what most life scientists have been recommending for several decades.

17/03/2016

As a result of the large number of media used and a variety of objectives pursued by the various Public Communication of Science (PCS) activities, their evaluation turns into a daunting task. Therefore, a general taxonomy for all the approaches used by PCS could be helpful in order to differentiate their effects and to measure their results. A general format is proposed for a fast and easy evaluation of PCS efforts and to share a common language with all science communicators, who need to easily compare the results of this growing activity.

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