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Apr 06, 2020 Article
Variability in the interpretation of probability phrases used in Dutch news articles — a risk for miscommunication

by Sanne Willems, Casper Albers and Ionica Smeets

Verbal probability phrases are often used in science communication to express estimated risks in words instead of numbers. In this study we look at how laypeople and statisticians interpret Dutch probability phrases that are regularly used in news articles. We found that there is a large variability in interpretations, even if the phrases are given in a neutral context. Also, statisticians do not agree on the interpretation of the phrases. We conclude that science communicators should be careful in using verbal probability expressions.

Volume 19 • Issue 02 • 2020

Mar 30, 2020 Article
Strategies for including communication of non-Western and indigenous knowledges in science communication histories

by Lindy A. Orthia

How a discipline's history is written shapes its identity. Accordingly, science communicators opposed to cultural exclusion may seek cross-cultural conceptualizations of science communication's past, beyond familiar narratives centred on the recent West. Here I make a case for thinking about science communication history in these broader geotemporal terms. I discuss works by historians and knowledge keepers from the Indigenous Australian Yorta Yorta Nation who describe a geological event their ancestors witnessed 30,000 ybp and communicated about over generations to the present. This is likely one of the oldest examples of science communication, warranting a prominent place in science communication histories.

Volume 19 • Issue 02 • 2020

Mar 16, 2020 Article
Decisions to choose genetically modified foods: how do people's perceptions of science and scientists affect their choices?

by Jiyoun Kim and Sumin Fang

This study explores the effects of food science perception on food decisions in the controversial case of genetically modified (GM) foods. We examine (1) how scientific consensus and scientific deference affect the public perception of GM foods; and (2) how perception and healthy eating interest influence people's actual food consumption decisions. We categorized our samples into four groups based on different risk/benefit perceptions of GM food: tradeoff, relaxed, skeptical, and uninterested in the process of further data analysis.

Volume 19 • Issue 02 • 2020

Mar 09, 2020 Article
Gender-biased public perception of STEM fields, focusing on the influence of egalitarian attitudes toward gender roles

by Yuko Ikkatai, Azusa Minamizaki, Kei Kano, Atsushi Inoue, Euan McKay and Hiromi M. Yokoyama

Many studies have examined the impression that the general public has of science and how this can prevent girls from choosing science fields. Using an online questionnaire, we investigated whether the public perception of several academic fields was gender-biased in Japan. First, we found the gender-bias gap in public perceptions was largest in nursing and mechanical engineering. Second, people who have a low level of egalitarian attitudes toward gender roles perceived that nursing was suitable for women. Third, people who have a low level of egalitarian attitudes perceived that many STEM fields are suitable for men. This suggests that gender-biased perceptions toward academic fields can still be found in Japan.

Volume 19 • Issue 01 • 2020

Mar 02, 2020 Article
Are science festivals a good place to discuss heated topics?

by Sacha Altay and Camille Lakhlifi

Public acceptance of vaccination and Genetically Modified (GM) food is low and opposition is stiff. During two science festivals in France, we discussed in small groups the scientific evidence and current consensus on the benefits of vaccination and GM food safety. Our interventions reinforced people's positive opinions on vaccination and produced a drastic positive shift of GM food opinions. Despite the controversial nature of the topics discussed, there were very few cases of backfire effects among the 175 participants who volunteered. These results should encourage scientists to engage more often with the public during science festivals, even on heated topics.

Volume 19 • Issue 01 • 2020

Feb 24, 2020 Article
One size does not fit all: gender implications for the design of outcomes, evaluation and assessment of science communication programs

by Christine O'Connell, Merryn McKinnon and Jordan LaBouff

As science communication programs grow worldwide, effective evaluation and assessment metrics lag. While there is no consensus on evaluation protocols specifically for science communication training, there is agreement on elements of effective training: listening, empathy, and knowing your audience — core tenets of improvisation. We designed an evaluation protocol, tested over three years, based on validated and newly developed scales for an improvisation-based communication training at the Alan Alda Center for Communicating Science. Initial results suggest that ‘knowing your audience’ should apply to training providers as they design and evaluate their curriculum, and gender may be a key influence on outcomes.

Volume 19 • Issue 01 • 2020

Feb 17, 2020 Article
Models to build capacity for African science centres and science communication: needs and assets

by Graham Walker, Leapotswe Bontle BANTSI, Siphesihle Bukhosini, Knowledge Chikundi, Akash Dusrath, Martin Kafeero, Bhamini Kamudu, Kenneth Monjero, Kabelo Nick Moswetsi, Sandile Rikhotso, Marthinus J. Schwartz and Puleng Tsie

Science communication is proliferating in the developing world, however, with respect to science centres, as a whole Africa is being left behind. Here 15 participants in a capacity building program are investigated using traditional needs-based and contemporary asset-based development conceptualisations. These development theories parallel deficit and participatory approaches, respectively, within science communication and demonstrate synergies between the fields. Data showed staffing, funding, governments, host institutions, and audiences are prominent needs and assets, networks are a major asset, and identified other influential factors. Analysis suggests a coordinated model involving individuals, host institutions and governments to facilitate growth of African science centres.

Volume 19 • Issue 01 • 2020

Feb 10, 2020 Article
Science on tap: effective public engagement or preaching to the choir?

by Cara Ocobock and Patricia Hawley

The goal of Science Cafés and Science on Taps is to encourage open discourse between scientists and the public in a casual setting (e.g., a bar) in order to improve the public understanding of, and trust in, science. These events have existed for over two decades, but there is no research studying their efficacy. Data presented here demonstrate that a yearlong Science on Tap series induced little change among the attendees with respect to attitudes, emotions, and knowledge about the nature of science. Ultimately, we found this event may be preaching to the choir rather than changing hearts and minds.

Volume 19 • Issue 01 • 2020

Feb 03, 2020 Article
Challenges of communicating science: perspectives from the Philippines

by Kamila Navarro and Merryn McKinnon

Science communication research is dominated by Western countries. While their research provides insight into best practices, their findings cannot be generalized to developing countries. This study examined the science communication challenges encountered by scientists and science communicators from Manila, Philippines through an online survey and semi-structured, investigative interviews. Their answers revealed issues which have been echoed in other international studies. However, challenges of accessibility and local attitudes to science were magnified within the Philippine context. These results indicate the ubiquity of certain challenges in science communication and the need for country-specific science communication frameworks. Further research on the identified challenges is needed on a local and global scale.

Volume 19 • Issue 01 • 2020

Jan 27, 2020 Article
Datafictions: or how measurements and predictive analytics rule imagined future worlds

by Gernot Rieder and Thomas Voelker

As the digital revolution continues and our lives become increasingly governed by smart technologies, there is a rising need for reflection and critical debate about where we are, where we are headed, and where we want to be. Against this background, the paper suggests that one way to foster such discussion is by engaging with the world of fiction, with imaginative stories that explore the spaces, places, and politics of alternative realities. Hence, after a concise discussion of the concept of speculative fiction, we introduce the notion of datafictions as an umbrella term for speculative stories that deal with the datafication of society in both imaginative and imaginable ways. We then outline and briefly discuss fifteen datafictions subdivided into five main categories: surveillance; social sorting; prediction; advertising and corporate power; hubris, breakdown, and the end of Big Data. In a concluding section, we argue for the increased use of speculative fiction in education, but also as a tool to examine how specific technologies are culturally imagined and what kind of futures are considered plausible given current implementations and trajectories.

Volume 19 • Issue 01 • 2020