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Jul 29, 2021 Article
Animals of Instagram: taxonomic bias in science communication online

by Grace Heathcote

There are currently no published studies examining taxonomic bias on Instagram. To address this knowledge gap, this study examined seven popular science communication accounts for a year and found that the majority of posts featured vertebrates. However, non-insect invertebrates attracted the highest measures of positive audience engagement (likes, views and comments), suggesting a mismatch between the preferences of science-seeking audiences online and the information being offered to them. These results challenge traditional notions of charismatic megafauna and could improve conservation outcomes of traditionally under-represented species like invertebrates.

Volume 20 • Issue 04 • 2021

Jul 26, 2021 Article
Silent science: a mixed-methods analysis of faculty engagement in science communication

by Taylor T. Ruth, Joy N. Rumble, Lisa K. Lundy, Sebastian Galindo, Hannah S. Carter and Kevin Folta

To address science literacy issues, university faculty have to engage in effective science communication. However, social pressures from peers, administration, or the public may silence their efforts. The purpose of this study was to understand the effect of the spiral of silence on faculty's engagement with science communication. A survey was distributed to a census of tenure-track faculty at the University of Florida [UF], and the findings did not support the spiral of silence was occurring. However, follow-up interviews revealed faculty did not perceive their peers to value science communication and were more concerned about how the public felt about their research and communication.

Volume 20 • Issue 04 • 2021

Jul 21, 2021 Article
Science communicators intimidated: researchers' freedom of expression and the rise of authoritarian populism

by Esa Valiverronen and Sampsa Saikkonen

In this article, we explore scientists' freedom of expression in the context of authoritarian populism. Our particular case for this analysis is Finland, where the right-wing populist Finns Party entered the government for the first time in 2015. More recently, after leaving the government in 2017, the party has been the most popular party in opinion polls in 2021. We illustrate the current threats to Finnish researchers' freedom of expression using their responses on three surveys, made in 2015, 2017 and 2019. We focus on politically motivated disparagement of scientists and experts, and the scientists' experiences with online hate and aggressive feedback. Further, we relate these findings to the recent studies on authoritarian populism and science-related populism. We argue that this development may affect researchers' readiness to communicate their research and expertise in public.

Volume 20 • Issue 04 • 2021

Jul 08, 2021 Article
“Britain's rainforests”: engaging the public with brownfield sites for conservation in the U.K.

by Rosie McCallum and Ana Margarida Sardo

This small-scale study aims to understand what different environmental organisations are doing to engage people with brownfield sites in the U.K. Interviews with staff members from different environmental organisations found a wide range of initiatives to be in practice, including collaboration with other organisations and local schools and involving volunteer groups with maintenance of the sites. Working with volunteers and partner organisations and the management of sites were often identified as essential contributors to the success of projects. Interesting themes which arose, including the lack of demographic data and issues engaging with developers, could act as springboards for further studies.

Volume 20 • Issue 04 • 2021

Jul 05, 2021 Article
Exploring the use of positive humour as a tool in science communication: do science and non-science undergraduates differ in their receptiveness to humour in popular science articles?

by Alfred Chan and Chammika Udalagama

This study aims to test for differences in the receptiveness of science and non-science undergraduates to positive, non-aggressive humour being used in a science article, as an exploration into the utilization of such humour as a tool for more engaging science communication. The majority of the 76 respondents to an online survey were generally receptive to such use, with some differences between the two groups. It was also noted that a receptiveness to such humour may not necessarily be associated with a receptiveness to its actual use in science articles.

Volume 20 • Issue 04 • 2021

Jul 01, 2021 Article
Characteristics of Spanish citizen participation practices in science

by Carolina Llorente, Gema Revuelta and Mar Carrió

A new regime of science production is emerging from the involvement of non-scientists. The present study aims to improve understanding of this phenomenon with an analysis of 16 interviews with Spanish coordinators of participatory science practices. The results indicate a majority of strategic and captive publics and point to communication as a key tool for the development of successful practices. Five key elements of the degree of integration required to develop a citizen participation in science practice were analysed: derived outputs, level of participant contribution, participation assessment, practice replicability, and participant and facilitator training. Proposals for strategies to remove barriers to citizen participation are the study's principal contribution.

Volume 20 • Issue 04 • 2021

Jun 21, 2021 Article
Providing health information via Twitter: professional background and message style influence source trustworthiness, message credibility and behavioral intentions

by Lars König and Priska Breves

Since the COVID-19 pandemic hit the global community, politicians as well as scientists increasingly turn to Twitter to share urgent health information using various message styles. The results of our 2x2 between-subject experiment show that if a Tweet is written in lower-case letters, participants perceive the information source as more trustworthy. Furthermore, the information is perceived as more credible, and people are more willing to read the health information and share it via social media. Furthermore, scientists are perceived as possessing more expertise than politicians. However, politicians are perceived as possessing more integrity and benevolence than scientists.

Volume 20 • Issue 04 • 2021

Jun 14, 2021 Article
Step by step towards citizen science — deconstructing youth participation in BioBlitzes

by Julia Lorke, Heidi L. Ballard, Annie E. Miller, Rebecca D. Swanson, Sasha Pratt-Taweh, Jessie N. Jennewein, Lila Higgins, Rebecca F. Johnson, Alison N. Young, Maryam Ghadiri Khanaposhtani and Lucy D. Robinson

BioBlitzes, typically one-day citizen science (CS) events, provide opportunities for the public to participate in data collection for research and conservation, potentially promoting deeper engagement with science. We observed 81 youth at 15 BioBlitzes in the U.S. and U.K., identifying five steps participants use to create a biological record (Exploring, Observing, Identifying, Documenting and Recording). We found 67 youth engaged in at least one of the steps, but seldom in all, with rare participation in Recording which is crucial for contributing data to CS. These findings suggest BioBlitzes should reduce barriers to Recording for youth to increase engagement with science.

Volume 20 • Issue 04 • 2021

Jun 07, 2021 Article
Undifferentiated optimism and scandalized accidents: the media coverage of autonomous driving in Germany

by Lena Jelinski, Katrin Etzrodt and Sven Engesser

When, to what extent and under what conditions autonomous driving will become common practice depends not only on the level of technical development but also on social acceptance. Therefore, the rapid development of autonomous driving systems raises the question of how the public perceives this technology. As the mass media are regarded as the main source of information for the lay audience, the news coverage is assumed to affect public opinion. The mass media are also frequently criticized for their inaccurate and biased news coverage. Against this backdrop, we conducted a content analysis of the news coverage of autonomous driving in five leading German newspapers. Findings show that media reporting on autonomous driving is not very detailed. They also indicate a slight positive bias in the balance of arguments and tonality. However, as soon as an accident involving an autonomous vehicle occurs, the frequency of reporting, as well as the extent of negativity and detail increase. We conclude that well-informed public opinion requires more differentiated reporting — irrespective of accidents.

Volume 20 • Issue 04 • 2021

May 26, 2021 Article
Learning without seeking?: Incidental exposure to science news on social media & knowledge of gene editing

by Joshua T. L. Anderson, Emily Howell, Michael A. Xenos, Dietram A. Scheufele and Dominique Brossard

Little is known about how incidental exposure to news, interpersonal discussion, and the diversity of social networks interact in social media environments and for science-related issues. Using a U.S. nationally representative survey, we investigate how these features relate to factual knowledge of gene editing. Incidental exposure to science-related news interacts with interpersonal discussion and network heterogeneity and reveals that the relationship between incidental exposure to news and knowledge is strongest among those who discuss the least. Incidental exposure could alleviate knowledge gaps between the Facebook users who are the most and least involved in interpersonal discussions about science.

Volume 20 • Issue 04 • 2021