Volume 15 • Issue 04 • 2016


Jun 22, 2016 Editorial
Five years of JCOM ― inclusive, comprehensive or could we do better?

by Emma Weitkamp

Looking back over the past 5 years of articles published in JCOM, this editorial looks at the topics covered and the geographies represented and asks: are we tackling all main contemporary issues in science communication/popularisation or public engagement? It invites you to contribute with your papers, letters, essays and news to help address the holes in our coverage and to enter into dialogue on our Facebook page.

Volume 15 • Issue 04 • 2016


May 10, 2016 Article
Learning at the Science Museum. A study on the public's experiences with different types of visit at the Museo Nazionale della Scienza e della Tecnologia "Leonardo da Vinci" in Milan, Italy

by Matteo Villa

This study aims to investigate whether different types of museum visits have specific ways to influence the visitors' experience and learning. Three types of museum visits as offered by the Museo della Scienza e della Tecnologia "Leonardo da Vinci" in Milan, Italy were taken into consideration: free tour, guided tour, and lab. The study involved visitors over 25 years of age. The way visits took place, the visitors' learning and experiences were investigated based on evidence collected using methods such as Personal Meaning Mapping and observation. Our study has revealed that the outcomes of the visits vary in terms of visitor experience and depth of knowledge on the main subject. No significant differences were found as concerns the level of attention (visitors proved to be attentive while at the museum regardless of the type of visit).

Volume 15 • Issue 04 • 2016

May 25, 2016 Article
Typologies of the popular science web video

by Jesus Munoz Morcillo, Klemens Czurda and Caroline Y. Robertson-von Trotha

This article provides a first statistical analysis of the typologies and characteristics of popular science web videos on YouTube. An analysis of 190 videos from 95 online video channels was conducted. Several factors such as narrative strategies, video editing techniques, and design tendencies with regard to cinematography, the number of shots, the kind of montage used, and even the use of sound design and special FX point to a notable professionalism among science communicators independent of institutional or personal commitments. This analysis represents an important step in understanding the essence of current popular science web videos and provides an evidence-based description of their distinctive features.

Volume 15 • Issue 04 • 2016

Jun 07, 2016 Article
Maths in the news: uses and errors in Portuguese newspapers

by Susana Pereira, António Machiavelo and Jose Azevedo

The authors present a quantitative content analysis to assess the use of mathematical information in the news of five generalist Portuguese newspapers during a three-month period. Misuses of mathematics were also studied in this context. Results show that only a small percentage of the news articles have mathematical information when compared to previous studies in the field. Furthermore, over 30% of the news articles containing mathematical information have some type of mathematical error. Different categories of errors are defined and reasons why these might occur are discussed.

Volume 15 • Issue 04 • 2016

Jun 09, 2016 Article
Democratizing science in the eighteenth century: resonances between Condorcet's Sketch (1795) and twenty-first century science communication

by Lindy A. Orthia

The twenty-first century has witnessed a shift in science communication ideals from one-way science popularization activities towards more reflexive, participatory approaches to public engagement with science. Yet our longue duéee histories of science communication's antecedents focus on the former and have neglected the latter. In this paper I identify parallels between modern science communication ideals and an iconic Enlightenment text, Condorcet's Sketch for a Historical Picture of the Progress of the Human Mind (1795). I show that Condorcet's carefully negotiated balance between scientific reason and radical principles of democracy has much in common with twenty-first century debates about science communication.

Volume 15 • Issue 04 • 2016

Jun 09, 2016 Article
"We muddle our way through": shared and distributed expertise in digital engagement with research

by Ann Grand, Richard Holliman, Trevor Collins and Anne Adams

The use and availability of digital media is changing researchers' roles and simultaneously providing a route for a more engaging relationship with stakeholders throughout the research process. Although the digital realm has a profound influence on people's day-to-day lives, some researchers have not yet professionally embraced digital technologies. This paper arises from one aspect of a project exploring how university research and professional practices are evolving as researchers engage with stakeholders via digital media to create, share and represent knowledge together. Using researchers from the Open University (U.K.) as a case study, this paper reviews the extent to which they are developing multiple identities and functions in their engaged research through digital media.

Volume 15 • Issue 04 • 2016


Jun 07, 2016 Essay
The necessary "GMO" denialism and scientific consensus

by Giovanni Tagliabue

"Genetically Modified Organisms" are not a consistent category: it is impossible to discuss such a miscellaneous bunch of products, deriving from various biotech methods, as if they had a common denominator. Critics are too often pre-emptively suspicious of peculiar risks for health or the environment linked to this ill-assorted ensemble of microorganisms, plants or animals: yet, even before being unscientific, the expression "GMO(s)" has very poor semantic value. Similarly, claims that recombinant DNA technology is always safe are a misjudgement: many unsatisfactory "GMOs" have been discarded, as has happened also for innumerable agri-food outcomes, obtained via more or less traditional field and lab methods. The scientific consensus, i.e. the widespread accord among geneticists, biologists and agriculturalists, maintains that every biotech invention has to be examined case by case, evaluating the unique profile of each new organism ("GMO" or otherwise): to assess its safety, the technique(s) used to produce it are irrelevant. Therefore, in considering "green" biotechnologies, a triple mantra should be kept in mind: 1. product, not process; 2. singular, not plural; 3. a posteriori, not a priori. Both people's and law-makers' attitude to agricultural biotechnologies should be reoriented, and this is an interesting task for science communicators: they should explain how meaningless and misleading the "GMO" frame is, debunking a historical, ongoing socio-political blunder, clarifying to the public what most life scientists have been recommending for several decades.

Volume 15 • Issue 04 • 2016


Jun 22, 2016 Commentary
Continuing professional development: evolution, complexity and variety in science communication training needs

by Paola Rodari

This commentary seeks to spark further discussion on the continuing professional development in science communication, presenting comments from practitioners who were asked to reflect on the competences and skills their profession requires, and to envisage what kind of training might provide them. This introduction presents some common issues that emerge within the comments: the necessity to face rapidly evolving professional landscapes, to answer to new missions and roles, to consider the growing impact and potential of new technologies. Alternative training methods are also discussed.

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May 26, 2016 Letter
Reflections on ‘Listening and Empowering: children and science communication’ by Matteo Merzagora and Tricia Jenkins

by Frazer Swift

The letter compares and contrasts thinking about making science accessible and relevant to children in science centres and museums with thinking about communication in social history museums.

Volume 15 • Issue 04 • 2016

Book Reviews

Jun 17, 2016 Book Review
The new commodities of the new media landscape

by Andy Ridgway

BOOK: Content is king; News media management in the digital age.
Graham, G., Greenhill, A., Shaw, D.Andvargo, C., Eds (2015), London, U.K.: Bloomsbury

The ‘traditional’ media industry ― newspapers and magazines and the like ― have had a difficult time lately thanks to increasing competition online. This book's chapters consider ways the traditional media can reinvent themselves to secure their future. Two key themes that emerge from the chapters are the importance of building communities and the increasing role of credibility in today's highly-competitive media landscape. While this book does not focus on the science media, many of the conclusions are relevant to it, in fact some are cause for comfort for those involved with science journalism.

Volume 15 • Issue 04 • 2016

Conference Reviews

Jun 22, 2016 Conference Review
15th Annual STS Conference Graz 2016

by Erik Stengler

Celebrating 15 years of success and growth, the STS Conference Graz on May 9 and 10, 2016, gathered nearly 200 delegates from all over the world who had the opportunity to discuss and share research and experiences on 6 main themes: Policy and Technology; Gender and Queer STS; Mobility, Energy and Sustainability; Responsible Research and Innovation Studies; Nutrition, Health and Biomedicine; and Information and Communication Technologies, Surveillance and Society.

Volume 15 • Issue 04 • 2016

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