The tsunami that took place on 26th December 2004 in the Indian Ocean and hurricane Katrina, that last August struck the Mexican Gulf, are two recent natural events that turned into catastrophes for mankind, causing several thousands victims. One of the reasons behind this can be traced back to the fact that useful information in the hands of scientists and experts did not reach the right people within the right time. A crushing defeat for risk communication was witnessed in these two recent events. All the more paradoxical since we live in what we like to name “the era of communication and information”.
This study presents the results of a qualitative analysis based on 13 crime news articles from Italian newspapers, to show that the belief that mental disorder predisposes many of those suffering from it to behave violently has endured, though the 180 bill was passed 25 years ago. Although the question has already been addressed by social psychologists and psychiatrists, it has not been discussed in great detail by science communication. However, this considers crime articles in newspapers as very interesting examples of indirect communication on health issues, where common belief prevails. The articles analyzed were about two matricides dating back to 1972 and 2001 respectively. The analysis showed that the belief that people with mental illnesses are recognizable, antisocial, can behave violently and cannot recover, has endured over many years. Nevertheless, statements about people with mental disorders are more accurate and the idea that the risk of violence among released mental patients is predictable, has been set aside.
In this paper I use the concepts “understanding of science” and “appreciation of science” to analyze selected case studies of current science communication in Denmark. The Danish science communication system has many similarities with science communication in other countries: the increasing political and scientific interest in science communication, the co-existence of many different kinds of science communication, and the multiple uses of the concepts of understanding vs. appreciation of science. I stress the international aspects of science communication, the national politico-scientific context as well as more local contexts as equally important conditions for understanding current Danish science communication.
From exhibitions to theatrical performances, from fireworks to video games, countless events and ventures have been held all over the world in 2005 to mark the occasion of the World Year of Physics (WYP2005). The year that is drawing to a close has brought physics out into the streets and University campuses, but in a few cases physics has even invaded theater stages and art museums, it has involved musicians and even architects. The worldwide objective was to highlight a science that has more and more need to communicate its close connections with society, its involvement in themes that are vital for the present day but above all for the future, like the frontiers of medicine, the reduction of global pollution and the search for new energy sources. This focus tries to discover, country by country, the events that have accompanied the World Year of Physics. But this will also be an attempt to reply to a question on the very nature of this type of event: “do we really need it”? Is a World Year of Physics really necessary and, above all, is it effective?
During the last annual conference of ECSITE (European Collaborative for Science and Technology Exhibitions; Helsinki, June 2005), for the first time two discussion sessions were devoted to explainers, the innumerable people – young students mainly – who welcome visitors at exhibitions, museums and festivals, who animate laboratories and science shows, who guide, explain and lately also stimulate and manage discussions and participatory procedures. Thanks to the involvement of the speakers, who agreed to submit a broadened version of their papers, JCOM is glad to host the proceedings of these meetings. A great deal has to be done yet in order to analyse the complex European context and to fully understand the explainer’s professional profile.
A review of two books recently published by Vieira & Lent, by the Casa da Ciência (House of Science) and by the Oswaldo Cruz Museu da Vida (Life Museum, Cruz/Fiocruz), "O Pequeno Cientista Amador – a divulgação científica e o público infantil", and "Terra Incógnita – a interface entre ciência e público" ("The Young Amateur Scientist - scientific divulgation and the youthful public", and "Unknown Land – the interface between science and the public") is presented.