Policy-making, communication and governance of science


Rapid and significant developments in the science of Autism Spectrum Disorders (ASDs) have provoked serious social and ethical concerns as well as positive influences worldwide. This study created a social agenda containing 21 important issues regarding the relationship between ASDs and society and the development of the science of ASDs. The agenda was constructed with the input of a variety of Japanese people who were provided with scientific ASD information and engaged in discussions regarding ASDs. First, opinions were sought via a questionnaire from the attendees of six science café sessions. Then, additional important issues were put forward by attendees of a larger dialogue session regarding the relationship between ASDs and society, again via a questionnaire. The agenda covered a wide range of issues, including information regarding ASDs, people’s understanding of ASDs, social support, education, the difference between ASD characteristics and individuality, ASD research, diagnosis, and social attitudes.


This introduction presents the essays belonging to the JCOM special issue on User-led and peer-to-peer science. It also draws a first map of the main problems we need to investigate when we face this new and emerging phenomenon. Web tools are enacting and facilitating new ways for lay people to interact with scientists or to cooperate with each other, but cultural and political changes are also at play. What happens to expertise, knowledge production and relations between scientific institutions and society when lay people or non-scientists go online and engage in scientific activities? From science blogging and social networks to garage biology and open tools for user-led research, P2P science challenges many assumptions about public participation in scientific knowledge production. And it calls for a radical and perhaps new kind of openness of scientific practices towards society.


From contributions of astronomy data and DNA sequences to disease treatment research, scientific activity by non-scientists is a real and emergent phenomenon, and raising policy questions. This involvement in science can be understood as an issue of access to publications, code, and data that facilitates public engagement in the research process, thus appropriate policy to support the associated welfare enhancing benefits is essential. Current legal barriers to citizen participation can be alleviated by scientists’ use of the “Reproducible Research Standard,” thus making the literature, data, and code associated with scientific results accessible. The enterprise of science is undergoing deep and fundamental changes, particularly in how scientists obtain results and share their work: the promise of open research dissemination held by the Internet is gradually being fulfilled by scientists. Contributions to science from beyond the ivory tower are forcing a rethinking of traditional models of knowledge generation, evaluation, and communication. The notion of a scientific “peer” is blurred with the advent of lay contributions to science raising questions regarding the concepts of peer-review and recognition. New collaborative models are emerging around both open scientific software and the generation of scientific discoveries that bear a similarity to open innovation models in other settings. Public engagement in science can be understood as an issue of access to knowledge for public involvement in the research process, facilitated by appropriate policy to support the welfare enhancing benefits deriving from citizen-science.


This study explores the presence of science programs on the Flemish public broadcaster between 1997 and 2002 in terms of length, science domains, target groups, production mode, and type of broadcast. Our data show that for nearly all variables 2000 can be marked as a year in which the downward spiral for science on television was reversed. These results serve as a case study to discuss the influence of public policy and other possible motives for changes in science programming, as to gain a clearer insight into the factors that influence whether and how science programs are broadcast on television. Three factors were found to be crucial in this respect: 1) public service philosophy, 2) a strong governmental science policy providing structural government support, and 3) the reflection of a social discourse that articulates a need for more hard sciences.


The importance the Brazilian government has given in the last few years to the dissemination of science points out the necessity of a more discerning analysis about the establishment of this subject on the public agenda and the related public policies undertaken. This work tries to contribute to the debate as an inquiry about the policies to popularize and disseminate Science and Technology (S&T) established by the Science and Technology Popularization and Dissemination Department, which was created in 2004. In order to do so, theoretical references from Public Policy Analysis, the Studies of Science, Technology and Society (SSTS), and Public Communication of Science are used. Furthermore, we analyze some of the results from research on Science and Technology Understanding carried out in Brazil in 2006. As a final point, this associated approach aims at identifying some of the limiting factors related to science dissemination actions in Brazil.


The major Lisbon goal is to give Europe back the primacy as a society of knowledge. `Giving back' is a more appropriate term than `giving', as Europe long held that primacy in the past, and virtually as a monopoliser from the 17th century throughout the 19th. Then, Europe shared it with North America for a long portion of the 20th century.


We have analyzed the popularization activities undertaken by ten thousand CNRS researchers by means of their annual reports for the years 2004, 2005 and 2006. This is the first time that such an extensive statistical study on science popularization practices is carried out. Our main findings are : - the majority of researchers is not involved in popularization (51% has not done any popularization over the three-year period, two thirds have been involved in no more than one popularization action). - popularization practices are extremely diverse, both at the individual level (we have identified three subpopulations that feature distinctive attitudes towards popularization), and at the level of scientific disciplines (researchers in Humanities are twice as active as the average), as well as in laboratories or geographical regions. - the number of actions reported in 2005 greatly increased compared to 2004 (+ 26%), while they slightly diminished in 2006.


Two concepts seemingly distant from each other, scientific education and European citizenship, have been the basis for "SEDEC - Science Education for the Development of European Citizenship", a European project funded by the European Commission in the framework of the Socrates/Comenius programme, aiming at producing training material addressed to European teachers. Started in autumn 2005, the project will end in 2008 with an in-service training course for European teachers and educators.


Probably among the first to deal with it, nearly sixty years ago, Norbert Wiener, the founding father of cybernetics (The human use of human beings. Cybernetics and Society, Houghton Mifflin Company, London, 1950), prefigured its opportunities, as well as its limitations. Today, it is a quite common belief. We have entered (are entering) a new, great era in the history of human society: the age of information and knowledge.


The Scientific Communications Act of 2007 (HR 1453) was introduced by the US House of Representatives on 9th March. The National Science Foundation, an independent United States Government agency that supports fundamental research and education, has thus been allowed to spend ten million dollars for each of the fiscal years 2008 through 2012 to provide communications training to improve the ability of scientists to engage in public dialogue.


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