While several scientific communities have discussed the emergence of Open Access publishing in depth, in the science communication community this debate has never been central. Scholars in most scientific disciplines have at their disposal Open Access options such as journals, repositories, preprint archives and the like. Ironically enough, a community devoted to the study of science’s communication structures is witnessing this transformation without being directly involved. Both structural and cultural obstacles hamper the growth of an Open Access sector in science communication publishing. With this editorial I hope to start a debate on the need for a more open communication environment in our academic practice.
Should one aim at presenting a local or global science perspective in construing an effective museum narration for communicating scientific and technological issues in natural science? This article will attempt to respond to this question by presenting the data of an evaluation exercise undertaken by the Trento Natural History Museum (Museo Tridentino di Scienze Naturali – MTSN) from 2009 to 2011. The local dimension apparently lies at the heart of the museum’s appeal for its visitors: they associate their mountain surroundings with the symbol of the region’s identity, and appreciate in particular the efforts undertaken by the museum to communicate and conserve the mountain’s environment. Indeed, in their opinion, by protecting the mountains and disseminating knowledge about them, the museum indirectly acts as a custodian of the region’s own identity. However, interest in local issues far from rules out global scientific themes, whose presence is sought to complement and interact with the local discourse.
We analyse the science and technology news reports covered by the Jornal Nacional, the Brazilian newscast with the largest audience, which is broadcast at prime time on a free-to-air channel. The constructed week methodology was used to compose a sample of 72 newscasts, representative of an entire year (from April 2009 to March 2010): 77 science and technology news reports were thus identified, occupying an average of 7.3% of the newscast's daily broadcasting time, and therefore giving evidence that such matters belong on the JN's agenda. Content analysis has enabled us to observe the following: most reports were focused on announcing research results; the main fields dealt with were medical science and health; the coverage of national research projects ranked highest; researchers and scientific institutes represented the main sources of the news items; scientists were mostly shown in their offices, and as far as interviews are concerned female scientists were a minority. The approach to science was more positive than negative and controversial aspects were scarcely explored.
Science communication processes are complex and uncertain. Designing and managing these processes using a step-by-step approach, allows those with science communication responsibility to manoeuvre between moral or normative issues, practical experiences, empirical data and theoretical foundations. The tool described in this study is an evidence-based questionnaire, tested in practice for feasibility. The key element of this decision aid is a challenge to the science communication practitioners to reflect on their attitudes, knowledge, reasoning and decision-making in a step-by-step manner to question the aim, function and impact of each issue and attendant communication process or strategy. This approach eventually leads to more professional science communication processes by systematic design. The Design-Based Research (DBR) derived from science education and applied in this study, may form a new methodology for further exploration of the gap between theory and practice in science communication and. Practitioners, scholars, and researchers all participate actively in DBR.