The demand for evaluation of science communication practices and the number and variety of such evaluations are all growing. But it is not clear what evaluation tells us - or even what it can tell us about the overall impacts of the now-global spread of science communication initiatives. On the other hand, well-designed evaluation of particular activities can support innovative and improved practices.
The study investigated the extent to which transmission and cognition, the first two stages in the research use process, are accomplished for winemakers. “Transmission-cognition” was operationalized as the frequency of engagement with information sources considered to be carriers of scientific research. The study also investigated the prominence of four types of research use among winemakers (conceptual, symbolic, instrumental and persuasive) together with their inter-relationship. Conceptual use of scientific information was reported by 90% of winemakers and is a precursor to the other types of research use. Findings are discussed with reference to knowledge creep and the dissemination of scientific research through central winemakers acting as nodes in social networks.
This paper explores media coverage of climate science through a selection of Spanish newspapers (El País, El Mundo, ABC, Expansión and Levante). We selected a stratified random sample of 363 items to be studied for eleven years (2000-2010). Content analysis allowed us to find out media attention paid to climate science, prevalence of informative tables, evaluation and characterization of news, as well as the presence of questioning or rejection of climate change. According to main results, press coverage of climate science in Spain was mainly focused on the consequences rather than on the causes or natural sources, and media attention paid to it was limited. Overlapping with social and macroeconomic problems in the country also contributed to communication of climate science as a controversial and uncertain science through informative framings.
In contrast to past consensus, many authors now feel that the passive voice compromises the quality of scientific writing. However, studies involving scientific articles are rare. Using a corpus of 60 scientific research articles from six journals, this study examined the proportion of passives used, and the contexts and forms in which they occurred. The results revealed that about 30% of all clauses were passive clauses. The canonical form was most pervasive, followed by the bare passive; together, they constituted more than a quarter of all clauses analyzed. Passives were typically used in main clauses, followed by relative and adverbial clauses. Roughly 29% of all passives were located in the methodology section. Based on the results, the proportion of passives in scientific writing may stabilize at about 30%. It is unlikely to dramatically drop any further since the trend suggests that passives are still widely used in the methodology section.
Metaphors and visualizations are important for science communication, though they may have limitations. This paper describes the development and evaluation of a novel interactive visualization, the "Dynamic Evolutionary Map"' (DEM), which communicates biological evolution using a non-standard metaphor. The DEM uses a map metaphor and interactivity to address conceptual limitations of traditional tree-based evolutionary representations. In a pilot evaluation biology novices used the DEM to answer questions about evolution. The results suggest that this visualization communicates some conceptual affordances differently than trees. Therefore, the described approach of building alternative visual metaphors for challenging concepts appears useful for science communication.
An evaluation toolkit developed as part of the EU-funded PLACES project was applied in 26 case studies across Europe. Results show, among other things, the contribution of science communication initiatives to public curiosity, professional networking and perception of cities where these initiatives are stronger.
The great increase in visitor studies on science museums and centres (SMC) has been marked also by a shift in approach to these studies, paying more attention to the social context of the visits and the nature of the experience. Evaluations have influenced directly SMC exhibition practices but more attention needs to be paid in research about the personal experiences of visits, how these are interpreted and how they contribute to scientific literacy.
Evaluations of science communication activities before, during and after their implementation can provide findings that are useful in planning further activities. As some selected examples show, designing such evaluation is complex: they may involve assessment at various points, a mix of quantitative and qualitative methods, and show that impacts differ when seen from different perspectives.
Even in the best-resourced science communication institutions, poor quality evaluation methods are routinely employed. This leads to questionable data, specious conclusions and stunted growth in the quality and effectiveness of science communication practice. Good impact evaluation requires upstream planning, clear objectives from practitioners, relevant research skills and a commitment to improving practice based on evaluation evidence.
As science museums and centres (SMC) broaden their practices to include the development of scientific citizenship, evaluation needs also to take account of this dimension of their practices. It requires complex methods to understand better the impacts of public participation in activities mediated by SMC, including their impacts on the governance of the SMC themselves.