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Mar 21, 2008 Commentary
Are museums places where science and society can really engage in a dialogue? A positive example related to the rubbish emergency in the Campania region

by Luigi Amodio

Science musums and science centres are wonderful places to host, support and mediate the dialogue between science and society. In fact, they are a natural crossroad where scientists, general public, media and insitutions for formal and informal learning meet. During the recent political and health crisis concerning the rubbish treatment in the Italian region of Campania, the science centre "Città della Scienza" has promoted an unusual dialogue between citizens and scientists.

Volume 7 • Issue 01 • 2008

Mar 21, 2008 Commentary
The fronties of dialogue

by Paola Rodari

“Dialogue” is the trendy word of the moment. The word “dialogue” can be found in the call to access European funding, in the works of Science Communication scholars, in presentations of science education projects, in the mission of new science centres. “Dialogue” is also a word reported by mass media regarding politicians' and scientists' speeches on general issues as well as on local or specific problems such as environment, health, energy, etc... This new magic word is frequently repeated and opens many doors (or perhaps it simply helps to make a good impression). However, there is the risk of ignoring the real meaning and functioning of the word. JCOM is therefore asking a number of experts involved in “dialogue” the following questions: what does it really mean? What are the theoretical principles, the practical opportunities, but also the risks and limits of “dialogue”?

Volume 7 • Issue 01 • 2008

Mar 21, 2008 Commentary
Dialogue in education

by Lynn Uyen Tran

What is the meaning of “dialogue” in education? Why is dialogue important in learning processes? Tran proposes a short review of the literature, starting with Vygotsky and ending with a new field of research in informal learning - conversations among the public visiting museums as a collaborative environment for learning.

Volume 7 • Issue 01 • 2008

Mar 21, 2008 Commentary
Science and society: a dialogue without communicators?

by Nico Pitrelli

To give a good public speech is art; but definitely more difficult is to organize a productive exchange of points of views between scientists, experts, non-experts and policy-makers on controversial issues such as a scenario workshop or a consensus conference. Many skills and a deep knowledge both of the topic and of the methodology are required. But this is the future of science communication, a field where the dialogical model will impose new and complex formats of communication and a new sensibility, using also the most traditional media. But are science communicators prepared for that? What is the state of the art of science communicator training?

Volume 7 • Issue 01 • 2008

Mar 21, 2008 Commentary
A dialogue on hard sciences is possible. Is it useful too?

by Stefano Sandrelli

Dialogical models in science communication produce effective and satisfactory experiences, also when hard sciences (like astrophysics or cosmology) are concerned. But those efforts to reach the public can be of modest impact since the public is no longer (or not sufficiently) interested in science. The reason of this lack of interest is not that science is an alien topic, but that contemporary science and technology have ceased to offer a convincing model for the human progress.

Volume 7 • Issue 01 • 2008

Mar 21, 2008 Commentary
Not in front of the children! The controversies of science and science communication for children and youth

by Luisa Massarani

Dialogue in science communication is a necessity - everybody agrees on it - because science and technology issues are involved in so many aspects of the citizens life, and in so many cases can raise suspects, fears, worries or, on the contrary, expectations and hopes. But who are the possible interlocutors for scientists and policy-makers? Everybody, says Luisa Massarani, beginning with children and teenagers. Also in such controversial and sensitive issues like AIDS or GMO.

Volume 7 • Issue 01 • 2008

Oct 22, 2007 Article
The biography of scientists as a means of communicating science: analogies concerning a hermeneutic or empirical problem

by Maria Francisca Carneiro

Sometimes scientists live real dramas or undergo social and psychological conflicts which have a positive or negative influence on the development and recognition of their research, discoveries and inventions in society, including the way they are recorded in history. This being so, the question is: to what extent can science be communicated to the public at large by the use of scientists' biographies as a motivational strategy? The controversy arises from the fact that usual (classical) science has traditionally argued for the separation (or de-linking) of the research (the object) from the researcher (the subject).Thus, if the above-mentioned motivational strategy is used in scientific communication, it could break a dominant methodological trend and consequently lead to a questioning of the myth of axiological neutrality in science. The communication of science by means of scientists' biographies could be useful for reaching a specific public, more directed towards emotional aspects, thereby awakening its interest in science, even amid cultural differences and in environments where interest in science and its utility is lacking. It could also reveal human aspects of the everyday life of scientists, bringing them closer to the public at large, which would contribute to the dissemination of science and knowledge.

Volume 6 • Issue 04 • 2007

Oct 22, 2007 Article
Incorporating communication research to develop an environmental history of the Pecos River of Texas

by Ric Jensen

Near the turn of the Century, a woman in her 90s from Dodge City, Kansas was riding her horse near the Pecos River and she described it as a sea of saltgrasses...You had to be very close to the river to see it because the grass was so high You could drink the water out of the springs in this area. I used to ride down to the Pecos River on horseback...There was a lot more water in it back then. We grew cantaloupes...and people were amazed at how sweet they were... We stopped because the water [became] was too salty. In 1903, fresh watercress and ferns were growing at Independence Springs [on the Lower Pecos River]...and there were pools of catfish and silver bass. Residents along Independence Creek sold minnows and other bait fish they took from the river. We had a terrible flood in 1941 and 1942 which breached Zimmerman Dam. The river at some places was 10 miles wide. Floodwater covered the valley and the dam was washed out. It seems there is always less water in the Pecos than we need... I think the water quality is worse now-- not that the Pecos River was ever beautiful and clear. When my grandfather got here 110 years ago, they had a lot of water problems then. The prospect of fixing the saltcedar problem and making this area come back the way it was 100 years ago looks bleak for to me...I don't know if we can do that --Quotes from long-time residents of the Pecos River of Texas

Volume 6 • Issue 04 • 2007

Jun 21, 2007 Article
Museums for Science Education: can we make the difference? The case of the EST project

by Maria Xanthoudaki, Brunella Tirelli, Patrizia Cerutti and Sara Calcagnini

This paper addresses the role of museums in education in science and technology through the discussion of a specific project entitled EST “Educate in Science and Technology”. The Project puts together methodologies and activities through which museums can be used as resources for long-term project work. In-service training for teachers, work in class with learning kits or with materials brought in by a Science Van, and visits to the museum are planned and developed jointly by museum experts and teachers. The Project proposes a teaching and learning model which sees the museum experience as central and integral part of a teaching and learning process with more effective outcomes. The analysis of the Project activities and methodologies is based on the work carried out at the National Museum of Science and Technology Leonardo da Vinci, which perceives the learner (the visitor) at the heart of its educational methodologies and provision.

Volume 6 • Issue 02 • 2007

Mar 21, 2007 Letter
The output for the Master’s degree in Science Communication at SISSA of Trieste

by Donato Ramani and Nico Pitrelli

What professional future awaits those who have attended a school in science communication? This has become an ever more urgent question, when you consider the proliferation of Masters and post-graduate courses that provide on different levels a training for science communicators in Europe and all over the world. In Italy, the International School for Advanced Studies of Trieste has been for fourteen years now the seat for a Master’s degree in Science Communication that has graduated over 170 students. This letter illustrates the results of a survey carried out in order to identify the job opportunities they have been offered and the role played in their career by their Master’s degree. Over 70% of the interviewees are now working in the field of science communication and they told us that the Master has played an important role in finding a job, thus highlighting the importance of this school as a training, cultural and professional centre.

Volume 6 • Issue 01 • 2007