The Royal Society published in late June a report entitled «Science Communication. Survey of factors affecting science communication by scientists and engineers». It is an in-depth survey on the communication addressed to non-specialist audiences that was carried out interviewing a wide and representative sample of UK scientists and engineers.
Science information professionals need to make choices through which media they want to communicate with the public. In reaching large audiences outside the domain of formal diffusion of knowledge, the choice may be between the old medium television and the new medium Internet. It seems that general scientific research is focused more and more on the Internet as a favorite means for information exchange and that the old mass medium television plays only a minor role. But when we look at (1) how the public spends their leisure time on television and the Internet, (2) how effective these media are in transferring information, and (3) how much these media are trusted as reliable sources of information, the old medium television should still be regarded as the number one medium to be used for science communication, although there are some limitations for its use.
The attacks of September 11 2001 and in particular, the sending of letters containing anthrax spores the following October had a profound effect on society, and at the same time on science and its communicative mechanisms. Through a quanto-qualitative analysis of articles taken from four publications: two daily newspapers, the Corriere della Sera from Italy and the New York Times from the United States and two science magazines, Science and Nature, we have shown how the aforementioned events provoked the emergence of media attention regarding bioterrorism. A closer reading of the articles shows that today, science – including that found in science magazines – is closely related to politics, economics and the debate over the freedom to practice communicate. The very mechanisms of communication between scientists were changed as a result of this debate, as can be seen from the signing of the Denver Declaration in February 2003, which brought about the preventative self-censorship of publication of biomedical research findings.
In last times scientific PR activities are increased by number and quality. Especially in United States and, more recently, in Europe all the most important research institutions and universities have been equipped with communication officers able to circulate their own information through mass media. This is undoubtedly a positive news for science. In spite of this, it’s necessary to think about which effects can be created by marketing activity on scientific communication. In this commentary we asked some scientific professionals to tackle these problems from different points of view.
In recent years, courses, events and incentive programs for scientific journalism and the divulgation of science have proliferated in Brazil. Part of this context is “Sunday is science day, history of a supplement from the post-war years”, a book published this year that is based on the Master’s degree research of Bernardo Esteves, a journalist specialized in science.