Letter

16/09/2019

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.

26/09/2018

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.

02/02/2017

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.

10/10/2016

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.

06/07/2016

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.

26/05/2016

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.

29/09/2015

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.

30/10/2009

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 (www.neuromedia.eu). 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.

20/03/2009

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.

19/09/2008

This article explores whether some scientists have now actually been developing a type of science apt to be published as a piece of news, yet lacking a relevant scientific interest. Possibly, behind this behaviour there may be the present working culture, in which scientists live under the pressure of the dictatorship of the Science Citation Index (SCI) of the reference journals. This hypothesis is supported by a study demonstrating that there is a direct relation between publishing scientific results in the press and a subsequent increase in the SCI index. Many cases are here described, selected among the papers published in Nature that – according to experts – have a media interest rather than a scientific one. Furthermore, the case of the Dolly sheep cloning is studied as a paradigm for a situation in which media coverage actually destroyed the research group.

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