Luckily enough, more democracy is always called for. Even in countries that can truly be described as democratic. And democracy (which is a constant reference in these pages) is increasingly related to knowledge, be it about whether growing GMOs, starting nuclear energy production or allowing the choice of a child’s gender through IVF techniques. The need to make democratic decisions on controversial issues, which increasingly imply scientific and technological knowledge, comes from the bottom, as citizens voice – sometimes even vehemently – the desire to express themselves.
“From Earth to the Universe” (FETTU) is a collection of astronomical images that showcase some of the most popular, current views of our Universe. The images, representing the wide variety of astronomical objects known to exist, have so far been exhibited in about 500 locations throughout the world as part of the International Year of Astronomy. In the United States, over 40 FETTU exhibits have occurred in 25 states in such locations as libraries, airports, nature centers, parks and college campuses. Based on preliminary evaluations currently underway, this project – a large-scale, worldwide astronomy outreach in non-traditional locations – has unique opportunities and implications for informal science learning. We present some early findings from the observational section of the exhibit’s formal evaluation in five selected locations in the U.S. and U.K., including emphasis on inter-organizational networking, visitor attention and participant make-up as well as generative aspects of the exhibit.
This article sums up key results of a web-based questionnaire survey targeting the members of the Danish Science Journalists' Association. The association includes not only science journalists but also other types of science communicators. The survey shows that science communicators have a nuanced and multidimensional view on science communication, science, and technology. Science communicators are thus more than the "mountain guides" of science, as a recent definition describes it. The survey respondents are not just interested in helping the public at large to a wider recognition of scientific knowledge, but also want to contribute to democratic debate and social legitimisation of science and technology. The respondents exhibit a certain amount of optimism in relation to science and technology, yet also take a sceptical stance when confronted with overly positive statements regarding science and technology. Finally they have a predominantly social constructivist perception of science and technology when it comes to external relations to society, while they lean towards a hypothetical-deductive science understanding when it concerns the internal dynamics of science
The first 18 volumes of the International Scientific Series published in both London and New York were reviewed to assess their contribution to transatlantic communication of popular science. The dominant flow of ideas was westwards on topics such as science versus religion, empiricism in psychology, survival of the fittest, jurisprudence versus mental illness, economics and development of cinematography. There was an eastward flow in philology. The preparation of volumes was rushed and many authors merely expanded previous notes, articles and pamphlets. Commercial and idealistic motives conflicted. There were disagreements among authors. Despite all this, the series had a lasting effect on social thought.
Museums have a great potential to facilitate the political engagement of citizens, intended not in the sense of taking part to the “party politics”, but as full participation in the systems that define and shape society.