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May 04, 2020 Letter
Pseudoscience as media effect

by Alexandre Schiele

The popularity of the anti-vax movement in the United States and elsewhere is the cause of new lethal epidemics of diseases that are fully preventable by modern medicine [Benecke and DeYoung, 2019]. Creationism creeps into science classrooms with the aim of undermining the teaching of evolution through legal obligations or school boards’ decisions to present both sides of a debate largely foreign to the scientific community [Taylor, 2017]. And one simply has to turn on the TV and watch so-called science channels to be bombarded with aliens, ghosts, cryptids and miracles as though they are undisputable facts [Prothero, 2012]. Deprecated by its detractors, scientific proof is assimilated to become one opinion among others, if not a mere speculation. Worse, scientific data that challenge partisan positions or economic interests are dismissed as ‘junk science’ and their proponents as ‘shills’ [Oreskes and Conway, 2010]. By echoing such statements, some members of the media, often willing accomplices in conflating denial and scepticism, amplify manufactured controversies and cast growing doubt upon scientific credibility.

Volume 19 • Issue 02 • 2020

Sep 16, 2019 Letter
Communicating science: lessons from a Twitterstorm

by Hannah Little

In early August 2019, the U.S.A. saw 2 significant mass shootings in just 48 hours. On Twitter, Neil deGrasse Tyson responded with a tweet to his millions of followers. He outlined the number of deaths in 48 hours from other causes, and seemed to disparage the human tendency to respond emotionally “more to spectacle than to data”. The tweet resulted in an uproar. This “twitterstorm” might provide important lessons for practicing science communicators. The first lesson outlined in this letter is about the use of analogy in science communication, and the second is about how emotion is addressed in science communication.

Volume 18 • Issue 04 • 2019

Sep 26, 2018 Letter
Peer-reviewed publishing of results from Citizen Science projects

by Gabriele Gadermaier, Daniel Dörler, Florian Heigl, Stefan Mayr, Johannes Rüdisser, Robert Brodschneider and Christine Marizzi

Citizen science (CS) terms the active participation of the general public in scientific research activities. With increasing amounts of information generated by citizen scientists, best practices to go beyond science communication and publish these findings to the scientific community are needed. This letter is a synopsis of authors' personal experiences when publishing results from citizen science projects in peer-reviewed journals, as presented at the Austrian Citizen Science Conference 2018. Here, we address authors' selection criteria for publishing CS data in open-access, peer-reviewed scientific journals as well as barriers encountered during the publishing process. We also outline factors that influence the probability of publication using CS data, including 1) funding to cover publication costs; 2) quality, quantity and scientific novelty of CS data; 3) recommendations to acknowledge contributions of citizen scientists in scientific, peer-reviewed publications; 4) citizen scientists' preference of the hands-on experience over the product (publication) and 5) bias among scientists for certain data sources and the scientific jargon. These experiences show that addressing these barriers could greatly increase the rate of CS data included in scientific publications.

Volume 17 • Issue 03 • 2018

Feb 02, 2017 Letter
Should the science communication community play a role in political activism?

by Joseph Roche and Nicola Davis

This letter reflects on how the role of science in society evolved in 2016. While there were plenty of groundbreaking scientific discoveries, the shifting political landscape cultivated a tempestuous relationship between science and society. We discuss these developments and the potential role of the science communication community in political activism.

Volume 16 • Issue 01 • 2017

Oct 10, 2016 Letter
Communicating trust and trusting science communication ― some critical remarks

by Alan Irwin and Maja Horst

Written in response to a previous article by Weingart and Guenther [2016] in JCOM, this letter aims to open up some critical issues concerning the ‘new ecology of communication’. It is argued that this evolving ecology needs to be openly explored without looking back to a previous idyll of ‘un-tainted’ science.

Volume 15 • Issue 06 • 2016

Jul 06, 2016 Letter
Is silence golden? Silence in interdisciplinary collaboration between scientists

by Nick Verouden and Maarten van der Sanden

In considering the ethos of science, Robert Merton [1973] posited that openness and secrecy reflect opposing values in the accomplishment of science. According to Merton, scientific inquiry required that all interested parties have access to and freely share scientific information. In our current epoch, this importance of openness in science seems even more widely accepted. It is a given nowadays that scientists are expected to work as part of a team, not only within their own department, but also with other departments different disciplines. To work interdisciplinary scientists must become more communicative and critically talk about difference, which asks maximum transparency and open communication of the participants. However, against the adage that openness and participation in science is an inherent good, one easily forgets that the actual practice of collaborating may also require things are not said. Navigating everyday interactional challenges may depend on postponing issues to keep the process going, for instance because scientists still have to figure out what they find important in the collaboration with others. But also issues like, withholding sensitive problems or not critiquing each other's options viewpoints, leaving points shrewdly of the agenda, and excluding relevant actors from the meeting table. Despite the idea of open innovation, shared visions, beliefs and knowledge we must focus on silence for the good and the bad as well.

Volume 15 • Issue 05 • 2016

May 26, 2016 Letter
Reflections on ‘Listening and Empowering: children and science communication’ by Matteo Merzagora and Tricia Jenkins

by Frazer Swift

The letter compares and contrasts thinking about making science accessible and relevant to children in science centres and museums with thinking about communication in social history museums.

Volume 15 • Issue 04 • 2016

Sep 29, 2015 Letter
A response to “Highlighting the value of impact evaluation: enhancing informal science learning and public engagement theory and practice”

by Heather King and Kate Steiner

Whilst welcoming Jensen’s response to our original paper, we suggest that our main argument may have been missed. We agree that there are many methods for conducting impact assessments in informal settings. However, the capacity to use such tools is beyond the scope of many practitioners with limited budgets, time, and appropriate expertise to interpret findings.
More particularly, we reiterate the importance of challenging the prevailing policy discourse in which longitudinal impact studies are regarded as the ‘gold standard’, and instead call for a new discourse that acknowledges what is feasible and useful in informal sector evaluation practice.

Volume 14 • Issue 03 • 2015

Oct 30, 2009 Letter
The brain seduction: the public perception of neuroscience

by Donato Ramani

The increasing number of magazine covers dedicated to brain studies and the success of magazines and scientific journals entirely dedicated to brain and mind indicate a strong interest on these themes. This interest is clearly surpassing the boundaries of scientific and medical researches and applications and underlines an engagement of the general public, too. This phenomenon appears to be enhanced by the increasing number of basic researches focusing on non-health-related fMRI studies, investigating aspects of personality as emotions, will, personal values and beliefs, self-identity and behaviour. The broad coverage by the media raises some central questions related to the complexity of researches, the intrinsic limits of these technologies, the results’ interpretative boundaries, factors which are crucial to properly understand the studies’ value. In case of an incomplete communication, if those fundamental interpretative elements are not well understood, we could register a misinterpretation in the public perception of the studies that opens new compelling questions. As already observed in the past debates on science and technologies applications, in this case, too, we assist to a communicative problem that set against scientific community on one side and media, on the other. Focusing our attention, in particular, on the debate on fMRI, taken as a good model, in the present letter we will investigate the most interesting aspects of the current discussion on neuroscience and neuroscience public perception. This analysis was performed as one of the bid - brains in dialogue - activities ( bid is a three year project supported by the European Commission under the 7th Framework Program and coordinated by Sissa, the International School for Advanced Studies of Trieste, aimed at fostering dialogue between science and society on the new challenges coming from neuroscience.

Volume 8 • Issue 04 • 2009

Mar 20, 2009 Letter
New languages for the spreading of scientific knowledge: broadening the dialog between science and society

by Danielle Pereira Cavalcanti and Cecília C. B. Cavalcanti

The Internet is by far the most intensely used communication tool of today and the main channel of interaction in the globalized world. This technology has opened up a whole new area for the interaction of knowledge: cyberspace, where information is always present and continuously changing. The interactivity that characterizes the virtual media together with the interactive modules developed by science centers and museums make the Internet a whole new space for the popularization of science. In order to stimulate dialog between science and society, Espaço Ciência Viva has decided to employ the Internet to divulge and to popularize scientific knowledge by bringing debates about the advances of science to the daily lives of people. To this end, its website was remodeled, which led to an increase of up to 600% in the number of visitors.

Volume 8 • Issue 01 • 2009