Volume 21 • Issue 06 • 2022


Sep 28, 2022 Article
How issue entrepreneurs shape public discourse of controversial science: examining GMO discussion on a popular Chinese Q&A platform

by Kaiping Chen and Yepeng Jin

Social media have become popular channels for sharing and discussing science issues. Drawing from the classic communication theory, Public Arena Model, this paper examines how issue entrepreneurs influenced the Chinese public's cognition of GMO, especially the role of celebrities and scientists in controversial science communication. To answer this question, we used the structural topic modeling method to examine public discussion about GMO on a popular Q&A site in China (Zhihu) from 2014 to 2019 (N=40,101). In study 1, we investigated what the major themes of public discourse are about GMO and the evolution of these themes in general. In study 2, we investigated public discourse in a more specific context, an iconic event in China's GMO history, a debate between a TV celebrity and a scientist, to examine how two major issue entrepreneurs influenced what and how the public deliberated GMO. We found that the issue entrepreneurs' debate increased public discussion on the ‘science communication’ aspect of GMO yet decreased public discussion on the ‘science’ of GMO. Supporters of different entrepreneurs are divided in their attitudes and rhetoric toward GMO. These findings shed new light on how social media is a digital embodiment of the public arena where public deliberation about controversial science occur and evolve.

Volume 21 • Issue 06 • 2022

Oct 05, 2022 Article
Strategic communication at the European Space Agency: juxtaposing strategy and public attitudes

by Axel Pfleger, Alexander Gerber and Alexander Struck

This case study analyses the efficacy of the European Space Agency's (ESA) strategic communication through a content analysis and an online attitudes survey in Germany. Our findings generally indicate low efficacy as ESA's communication strategy strongly focusses on press agentry, and is not managed in a sufficiently strategic manner. ESA pays little attention to evaluation and lays emphasis on targeting ‘the general public’. By contrast, we reveal a diversity of attitudes towards ESA among various publics. In light of this disconnect from best practice and public attitudes, we argue for a more inclusive approach which maximises public participation and introduces a more diverse and evidence-based science communication portfolio so as to make ESA's communication more efficacious and sustainable.

Volume 21 • Issue 06 • 2022

Oct 12, 2022 Article
Changing attitudes toward scientists by reducing intergroup biases: how a signage intervention focused on decategorization and recategorization improved trust

by Alexandra Beauchamp, Su-Jen Roberts and Craig Piper

We experimentally examined how messaging strategies that prompted differences in how scientists are categorized as a group increased positive science attitudes among non-scientists. Results from the first study showed that messaging which personalizes science or highlights shared common identities with scientists diminishes outgroup effects through recategorization or decategorization, respectively. Study 2 largely replicated these results in an ecologically valid setting: a zoo. Collectively, these studies support the use of the recategorization strategy for improving trust and science attitudes, but produced less consistent effects for decategorization. The results emphasized the importance of contextualized messaging when creating effective appeals in science communication.

Volume 21 • Issue 06 • 2022

Oct 19, 2022 Article
Telling our story: communicators’ perceptions of challenges and solutions for sustainability communication within the Australian beef industry

by Taylah Faulkner, Bradd Witt and Heather J. Bray

Sustainability communication has been an increasing focus globally for many diverse and complex resource-based industries, including beef production, due to an increase in public scrutiny. However, this has received limited research interest. This study, drawing on in-depth interviews, explores key internal and external stakeholders’ perceptions of sustainability communication challenges using the Australian beef industry as a case study. Diverse views about public perceptions, the role of communications in trust, and internal issues reflect challenges such as industry culture, isolation, and industry complexity and breadth. This research highlights and discusses a range of sustainability communication issues in complex contexts.

Volume 21 • Issue 06 • 2022

Oct 24, 2022 Article
Why create SciArt? An investigation into science artists' goals and professional journeys

by Alice Fleerackers, Paige Brown Jarreau and Julia Krolik

Although Science Art (“SciArt”) is increasingly used in science communication as a way to make content more engaging or accessible, little is known about why artists pursue this practice or what they hope to achieve through their work. This project addresses these questions through a thematic analysis of interviews with 131 practicing science artists. We identify a diversity of goals for creating SciArt, only some of which involve communicating science.

Volume 21 • Issue 06 • 2022

Oct 31, 2022 Article
Imagining the Sun: using comparative judgement to assess the impact of cross-curricular solar physics workshops

by Carol Davenport and Richard Morton

This paper describes a school intervention focused on visual art and solar physics using science capital and STEAM methodologies to develop STEM engagement activities. Data from 40 children (aged 8–11) in two primary schools in the North East of England are presented, using pre- and post-intervention surveys which contained free-response and likert-scale questions. The paper presents a novel, and transferable, method of evaluating children’s drawings using online comparative judgement marking software, particularly suited to those without a background in qualitative research. Using comparative judgement this paper shows that the intervention led to a moderate increase in girls’ knowledge of solar physics.

Volume 21 • Issue 06 • 2022

Practice Insights

Sep 19, 2022 Practice Insight
The culture of science communication in rural and regional Australia: the role of awe and wonder

by Saba Sinai, Lisa Caffery and Amy Cosby

Experiences of awe and wonder are vital to science and innovation. In this practice insight we explore how these emotions shape the culture of science communication. In doing so, we examine how exclusively nature- and place-based experiences for awe and wonder are often features of resource-limited settings. We then describe strategies for awe- and wonder-centred science communication beyond reliance on nature or the power of place by detailing a successful hybrid resourcing model in a rural Australian science centre. We finish by describing the role of science communicators in engaging potential collaborators to enable science communication in resource-limited settings.

Volume 21 • Issue 06 • 2022

Oct 26, 2022 Practice Insight
Our Ocean Climate Story: connecting communities with local data

by Cathy Cole, Gianna Savoie and Sally Carson

The ocean has a vast capacity for absorbing heat and carbon dioxide, seriously threatening local habitats for marine life. Challenges in connecting wider society with this crisis may originate in its poor visibility for non-specialists: the data can be inaccessible and hard to relate to. In a series of immersive community workshops, participants created artworks combining recent physical ocean climate data recorded in Otago, New Zealand, with impacts on local species from published studies. We found that crafting visual stories was a powerful way to distill greater meaning from complex climate data, and engage participants with harmful changes underway locally.

Volume 21 • Issue 06 • 2022


Sep 05, 2022 Essay
Opportunities for poaching: using the public's enjoyment of popular culture to foster dialogues around genetics

by Jonathan Roberts, Richard Milne, Anna Middleton, Christine Patch and Katherine Morley

Introduction: Engagement, education and communication with public audiences have long been seen as important for maximising the benefits of genetics and genomics. An important challenge is how to structure engagement in such a way that recognises the value and legitimacy of diverse public opinions and voices alongside scientific expertise. In other words, how to operationalise the dialogue model of science communication. In order for diverse public voices to be heard it is important to understand the resources that people have to make sense of science on their own terms. In this paper we provide a framework for how people's resources can be identified in relation to the culture they consume. Methods: A cross sectional online survey (n=1407) explored the cultural tastes and practices of a representative British public audience. Latent class analysis identified groups with similar cultural practices. Regression analysis was used to explore the relationship between the latent classes and other measures, such beliefs about genetics. Results: Three latent classes were identified each with distinctive cultural practices and tastes. Some clear relationships were found between the latent classes and familiarity with genetic terminology. However, for more complex beliefs, such as genetic causation, regression analysis yielded null or uncertain results with no clear correlation found. Discussion: This paper provides an analysis of how people's enjoyment of culture could be a resource for understanding and advancing science communication and engagement. The results are discussed using two complementary theoretical frameworks. Using Bourdieu's concept of cultural capital, the exclusionary power culture can be seen. The work of De Certaeu, on the other hand, shows how this power can be resisted and subverted. While this paper focuses on genetics and genomics we argue that this approach provides a `proof of concept' that these ideas can be extended for use in wider science engagement contexts.

Volume 21 • Issue 06 • 2022

Book Reviews

Sep 14, 2022 Book Review
Together in diversity: insights and wisdom from LGBTQ+ people working in STEM

by Andrea Bandelli

“The Queer Variable” is an edited collection of 40 interviews with LGBTQ+ people working in STEM. The interviews reveal the breadth of issues related to exclusion, discrimination, prejudice that LGBTQ+ people face; but also a remarkable progress and advancement of the whole STEM field to be more diverse, inclusive and equitable. The book is an empowering and enlightening reading for all those who are professionally active in STEM.

Volume 21 • Issue 06 • 2022

Sep 26, 2022 Book Review
A review of ‘Science Communication Practice in China’

by Fabien Medvecky

‘Science Communication Practice in China’ is a book that does two things. One very intentional, one less so. Intentionally, it presents the state of science communication and popularisation in China with a strong focus on the historical and policy context this is embedded in. Less (or possibly un-)intentionally, it makes explicit both its assumptions about what science communication should aim for and how it should go about its business, as well as forcing the reader to acknowledge their own assumptions of the role and place of science communication.

Volume 21 • Issue 06 • 2022

Oct 03, 2022 Book Review
A poetic approach to science communication

by Emma Weitkamp

‘Science Communication Through Poetry’, by Sam Illingworth offers a practical guide for the aspiring science communication poet or those interested in working with poetry as a research tool or public engagement method.

Volume 21 • Issue 06 • 2022

Conference Reviews

Sep 07, 2022 Conference Review
A focus on science communication at #ICA22

by Alice Fleerackers

This year’s International Communication Association conference (ICA 2022) featured more than 700 presentations, as well as an inaugural Science of Science Communication pre-conference. With a theme of “Mapping the Field,” the pre-conference sparked discussions about topics such as cross-cultural perspectives on COVID-19 and climate change communication, the rejection and skepticism of scientific evidence, theoretical models for trust in science, and the role of artificial intelligence in science communication. Keynote presentations reflected on lessons learned from COVID-19 and climate communication and offered recommendations for the future of the field.

Volume 21 • Issue 06 • 2022

Sep 12, 2022 Conference Review
‘SciComPt 2022’: stop, listen and act — reflect on the past to build the future

by Cristina Luís

During the Covid-19 pandemic the world faced enormous challenges demanding immediate responses. As a result, public communication of science assumed unprecedented prominence. Now, we need to stop, listen and act. This was the motto of the 10th Annual Congress of Science Communication in Portugal — SciComPt 2022. The meeting provided participants with exactly that — an opportunity to reflect on the past and help build the future of science communication in Portugal.

Volume 21 • Issue 06 • 2022

Sep 21, 2022 Conference Review
#ecsite2022 — a festive and reflexive gathering of science communicators

by Vanessa Mignan and Marina Joubert

The 2022 Ecsite conference took place in Heilbronn, Germany, from 2–4 June after two years of virtual meetings due to the Covid-19 pandemic. This review presents some highlights of this event, including two memorable keynote talks by disability activist Sinéad Burke and author/educator Lucy Hawking.

Volume 21 • Issue 06 • 2022

Oct 10, 2022 Conference Review
“Be the change” — how Cheltenham Science Festival used a central theme to centre social change within the festival

by Gary Kerr, Emma Whittle and Marieke Navin

“Be the change” (BTC) was the theme for Cheltenham Science Festival. BTC set out to empower audiences as individuals and as a collective to enact positive change across a wide range of global issues linked to the UN Sustainable Development Goals. We examine the role of theming within festivals and analyse how BTC centred social change within the science festival. We conclude by noting that science festivals do not have to have science, technology, engineering or maths (STEM) themes, but can instead be themed around global social issues.

Volume 21 • Issue 06 • 2022

Oct 17, 2022 Conference Review
Bringing society inside the walls of scientific facilities

by Frank Nuijens

The Public Awareness of Research Infrastructures (PARI) three-day conference held in July 2022 at the SKA Observatory’s Global Headquarters (U.K.) discussed the science communication issues that practitioners face at research infrastructures, like community building, science diplomacy and equity, diversity and inclusion in STEM. We concluded that we need to bring society within the walls of the scientific facilities as much as we need to help scientists engage with society.

Volume 21 • Issue 06 • 2022

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