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Dec 14, 2020 Article
Peoples' response in times of Corona crisis: a survey of indian public

by Gauhar Raza and Surjit Singh

The pandemic now known as COVID-19 crisis, took humanity by surprise. The highly infectious virus designated as SARS-CoV-2, with it epicentre in Wuhan City, crossed international boundaries at an unprecedented pace. Scientific community rose to the occasion, investigated etiology and clinical features, RNA sequence , pathological attributes, prognostic factors, transmission law and preventive measures, etc. of the virus [Harapan, Naoya, Amanda et al., 2020]. Usually, the cycle of generation of scientific knowledge, its publication in specialised journals, validation by international community of experts and then dissemination among the public is a time consuming process [Raza, Singh and Shukla, 2009]. The intensity of pandemic and risk involved reduced the time lag between generation of knowledge and its percolation among the lay public. The scientific knowledge generated in laboratories, within a brief period, shaped perceptions and attitude of both the governments and the lay public. Emergent situations, especially life-threatening episodes also invoked myths, superstitions and conspiracy theories [Van Bavel, Baicker, Boggio et al., 2020]. Media channels publicised scientific information, myths, superstitions and conspiracy theories with equal zeal. However, the study conducted in India suggests that common citizens rejected myths, superstitions and conspiracy theories. In a short period of time common citizens gathered scientific information through multiple channels of media and used it to increase their health security. The authority of science was never so sharply delineated in a highly religious and traditional society. This article looks at the pandemic's disruptive nature, sudden changes in scientific knowledge, rapid crystallisation of perceptions and thereby attitudinal transformation and behavioural changes among the public in India.

Volume 19 • Issue 07 • 2020 • Special Issue: COVID-19 and science communication, Part II, 2020

Sep 15, 2011 Article
Public understanding of environment and bioenergy resources

by Gauhar Raza, P.V.S. Kumar and Surjit Singh

There exists a distinct disconnect between scientists’ perception of nature and people’s worldview. This ‘disconnect’ though has dialectical relationship with science communication processes which, causes impediments in the propagation of scientific ideas. Those ideas, which are placed at large cultural distance, do not easily become a part of cognitive structure of a common citizen or peoples thought complex. Low level of public understanding of bio-energy technologies is one such sphere of understanding. The present study is based on assumption that public debate on bio-energy is part of the larger human concern about climate change. In this paper we present meta-analyses from published literature and take a look at the surveys that have been carried out at national and international level. In the second section of the article we also present analysis of the survey study carried out in India and locate the shifts in public understanding of science.

Volume 10 • Issue 03 • 2011

Jul 20, 2009 Article
Mapping gender differences in understanding about HIV/AIDS

by Surjit Singh, Gauhar Raza, S.N. Misra and Pushpa Dahiya

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.

Volume 8 • Issue 03 • 2009

Dec 21, 2004 Article
Cultural distance between peoples' worldview and scientific knowledge in the area of public health

by Gauhar Raza

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.

Volume 3 • Issue 04 • 2004