Public engagement with science and technology

02/03/2010

There is a wealth of medical information now available to the public through various sources that are not necessarily controlled by medical or healthcare professionals. In Australia there has been a strong movement in the health consumer arena of consumer-led sharing and production of medical information and in healthcare decision-making. This has led to empowerment of the public as well as increased knowledge-sharing. There are some successful initiatives and strategies on consumer- and public-led sharing of medical information, including the formation of specialised consumer groups, independent medical information organisations, consumer peer tutoring, and email lists and consumer networking events. With well-organised public initiatives and networks, there tends to be fairly balanced information being shared. However, there needs to be caution about the use of publicly available scientific information to further the agenda of special-interest groups and lobbying groups to advance often biased and unproven opinions or for scaremongering. With the adoption of more accountability of medical research, and the increased public scrutiny of private and public research, the validity and quality of medical information reaching the public is achieving higher standards.

22/02/2010

This study examines the nature of peer-to-peer interactions in public online comment spaces. From a theoretical perspective of boundary-work and expertise, the comments posted in response to three health sciences news articles from a national newspaper are explored to determine whether both scientific and personal expertise are recognized and taken up in discussion. Posts were analysed for both explicit claims to expertise and implicit claims embedded in discourse. The analysis suggests that while both scientific and personal expertise are proffered by commenters, it is scientific expertise that is privileged. Those expressing scientific expertise receive greater recognition of the value of their posts. Contributors seeking to share personal expertise are found to engage in scientisation to position themselves as worthwhile experts. Findings suggest that despite the possibilities afforded by online comments for a broader vision of what peer-to-peer interaction means, this possibility is not realized.

18/11/2009

Comics are a popular art form especially among children and as such provide a potential medium for science education and communication. In an attempt to present science comics in a museum exhibit I found many science themed comics and graphic books. Here I attempt to provide an overview of already available comics that communicate science, the genre of ‘science comics’. I also provide a quick literature review for evidence that comics can indeed be efficiently used for promoting scientific literacy via education and communication. I address the issue of lack of studies about science comics and their readers and suggest some possible reasons for this as well as some questions that could be addressed in future studies on the effect these comics may have on science communication.

30/10/2009

Formative evaluation should play a key role in the development of a science communication project or initiative. Such research is vital to understanding the needs and interests of the audience or participants; meeting these needs and interests helps ensure the project’s success. However, there can be a temptation to plough ahead without undertaking adequate formative evaluation. Using ScienceComics (www.sciencecomics.uwe.ac.uk) as a case study, this article explores both the challenges and benefits of using formative evaluation to guide project development. It focuses on the actors involved in the formative stages and the impacts these actors had on the final outputs. This evidence is used to develop practical guidance on integrating formative evaluation right from the start.

20/07/2009

The present article investigates public understanding of HIV/AIDS related issues that touch the thought structure of common citizen, among the Indian public. Analysis is based on a representative sample collected from 10 states of India. The authors have also analysed the relative cultural distance at which men and women, as separate groups, could be placed. The relative cultural distance, for each of the selected issues, has been computed and it was found that men, as a group, are closer to scientific thought structure compared to women.

24/02/2009

There is a compelling need to ensure that the points of view and preferences of stakeholders are fully considered and incorporated into natural resources management strategies. Stakeholders include a diverse group of individuals in several sectors that have an interest in how natural resources are managed. Typically, stakeholders with an interest in groundwater resources include groups who could be affected by the manner in which the resource is managed (e.g., farmers who need water for irrigation; municipalities and individuals who need drinking water, agencies and organizations that want to maintain in-stream flows to support ecosystems, etc.) Refugio County in South Texas provides an interesting case study since several groups of water users in the region are working with researchers at Texas A&M University-Kingsville (TAMUK) to develop decision-support models that incorporate stakeholder concerns. The focus of this paper is to provide a series of arguments and approaches about the ways in which stakeholder issues have recently been incorporated into environmental models, to briefly describe some of the TAMUK efforts to develop groundwater models that incorporate stakeholder inputs, and to present and discuss a method in which communication research can be used to obtain stakeholder preferences input into modeling efforts.

19/12/2008

The knowledge deficit model with regard to the public has been severely criticized in the sociology of the public perception of science. However, when dealing with public decisions regarding scientific matters, political and scientific institutions insist on defending the deficit model. The idea that only certified experts, or those with vast experience, should have the right to participate in decisions can bring about problems for the future of democracies. Through a type of "topography of ideas", in which some concepts from the social studies of science are used in order to think about these problems, and through the case study of public participation in the elaboration of the proposal of discounts in the fees charged for rural water use in Brazil, we will try to point out an alternative to the deficit model. This alternative includes a "minimum comprehension" of the scientific matters involved in the decision on the part of the participants, using criteria judged by the public itself.

20/06/2008

Basing mainly on author's direct involvement in some science communication efforts in India, and other reports, this contribution depicts and analyses the present science communication/ popularization scenario in India. It tries to dispel a myth that rural people don't require or don’t crave for S&T information. It discusses need for science and technology communication, sustaining curiosity and creating role models. Citing cases of some natural, 'unnatural' and organized events, it recounts how S&T popularization efforts have fared during the past decade and a half. It's made possible using print, AV and interactive media which, at times, require lot of financial inputs. However, this contribution shows that a number of natural and other phenomena can be used to convince people about power of S&T and in molding their attitude. The cases cited may be from India, but, with a little variation, are true for most of the developing and under- developed societies.

20/06/2008

This article presents an example of how a public science party was evaluated. The main goals of the science party, to increase the positive image of science and present an attractive science event, were evaluated in two ways. First, web surveys were used to determine the image of science before and after the event among paying visitors, invited guests, and a control group (N = 149). Second, during the event, visitors were interviewed about their experiences at the event (N = 124). The survey study showed that the image of science was very positive among all three groups of respondents. As no differences were found between pre- and post-tests, participation in the event did not lead to a more positive image of science. The results of the interviews suggested that visitors highly appreciated the event. In the Discussion, the evaluation study is analyzed and possibilities/limitations for future general use are discussed.

22/10/2007

After serving the community for seven years, the Science Museum of Castilla-La Mancha (MCCM) has decided to renew itself. In this context, a survey of the needs and expectations of the people to which the museum is dedicated plays a major role for the changes planned to prove successful. Teachers are among the main users of the museum, staying at the core of all teaching-learning processes, and play a role as mediators between science and students. This paper analyses the judgements made by teachers about various types of events and teaching resources which are normally provided by science museums and, more specifically, the Science Museum of Castilla-La Mancha. Against that backdrop, science (our content), education (our objective) and the democratic participation of teachers will show a clear route to follow if one wants to achieve quality for our institution and its future events.

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