This issue of JCOM explores the question ‘what works in science communication?’ from a variety of angles, as well as focusing on the politically sensitive topic of climate change. In addition, the issue contains a set of commentaries that explore the sometimes conflicting roles of universities in science communication.
Research suggests non-experts associate different content with the terms “global warming” and “climate change.” We test this claim with Twitter content using supervised learning software to categorize tweets by topic and explore differences between content using “global warming” and “climate change” between 1 January 2012 and 31 March 2014. Twitter data were combined with temperature records to observe the extent to which temperature was associated with Twitter discussions. We then used two case studies to examine the relationship between extreme temperature events and Twitter content. Our findings underscore the importance of considering climate change communication on social media.
This study explored how different presentations of an object in deep space affect understanding, engagement, and aesthetic appreciation. A total of n = 2,502 respondents to an online survey were randomly assigned to one of 11 versions of Cassiopeia A, comprising 6 images and 5 videos ranging from 3s to approximately 1min. Participants responded to intial items regarding what the image looked like, the aesthetic appeal of the image, perceptions of understanding, and how much the participant wanted to learn more. After the image was identified, participants indicated the extent to which the label increased understanding and how well the image represented the object. A final item asked for questions about the image for an atronomer. Results suggest that alternative types of images can and should be used, provided they are accompanied by explanations. Qualitative data indicated that explanations should include information about colors used, size, scale, and location of the object. The results are discussed in terms of science communication to the public in the face of increasing use of technology.
This paper analyzes data collected but not reported in the study featured in van der Linden, Leiserowitz, Feinberg, and Maibach [van der Linden et al., 2015]. VLFM report finding that a “scientific consensus” message “increased” experiment subjects' “key beliefs about climate change” and “in turn” their “support for public action” to mitigate it. However, VLFM fail to report that message-exposed subjects' “beliefs about climate change” and “support for public action” did not vary significantly, in statistical or practical terms, from those of a message-unexposed control group. The paper also shows how this absence of an experimental effect was obscured by a misspecified structural equation model.
In this paper, we respond to the critiques presented by [Kahan, 2017]. Contrary to claims that the scientific consensus message did not significantly influence the key mediator and outcome variables in our model, we show that the experiment in [van der Linden et al., 2015] did in fact directly influence key beliefs about climate change. We also clarify that the Gateway Belief Model (GBM) is theoretically well-specified, empirically sound, and as hypothesized, the consensus message exerts a significant indirect influence on support for public action through the mediating variables. We support our conclusions with a large-scale replication.
The four essays in this Commentary examine contributions of universities to science communication's development but also challenges in consolidating those efforts.
Shroeder Sorensen analyses in depth the close relationship of the TV-series Cosmos  with the popular culture, in its broadest sense, at the time of its release. The novel application of Fantasy-Theme analysis to the rhetorical vision of the series reveals how it is the product of a very careful and successful design. The book also compares the original series with its 2014 reboot Cosmos: A Spacetime Odyssey .
This article aims to present a critical analysis of the book entitled “Creative Research Communication ― Theory and Practice”, written by Clare Wilkinson and Emma Weitkamp (Manchester University Press, 2016). We aim to present the structure of the book, highlighting its strengths and successes. Although some chapters focus on the UK, the book offers a wide range of examples of practical activities for the communication of research of global interest and provides very useful tips. Ethical issues and the importance of evaluation, of how to do carry out such evaluation and dissemination, are also presented in an inspiring way. Well-written and objective, the book is a must-read for anyone who works, or aspires to work, in the field of public engagement with research.
Marked by the diversity of initiatives linking science and art and by new presentation formats, the 15th Congress of the Network for Popularisation of Science and Technology in Latin America and the Caribbean (RedPOP) saw heated debates on science, culture, politics and society. Between 21st and 25th August, it brought together in Buenos Aires (Argentina) about 400 participants from 14 countries in order to share new visions, initiatives and research work in science communication. During the event, which included a vast cultural programme, a series of challenges were raised for the future development of the field.