Public perception of science and technology

10/05/2021

The pace and scope of digital transformation has brought about fundamental changes to science communication. These changes have so far hardly been reflected in the underlying concepts of science communication as field of research and practice. Against this backdrop, this paper asks how science communication can be conceptualized in response to fundamental societal changes brought about by digital transformation. In response to this question, this paper builds on the results of a Delphi study with 31 outstanding international science communication scholars. It presents a shared approach that conceptualizes online science communication broadly and tackles different points of view by identifying specific characteristics that enable the distinction of different settings of science communication. It is argued that such an approach should be more appropriate for a contemporary analysis of science communication and also helpful for professional communicators and policymakers to understand the interactions of science and society in the context of the digital media landscape.

10/05/2021

Internet technologies and specifically social media have drastically changed science communication. The public no longer merely consume science-related information but participate (for example, by rating and disseminating) and generate their own content. Likewise, scientists are no longer dependent on journalists as gatekeepers to spreading relevant information. This paper identifies and reflects on relevant theoretical strands that help to inform theoretical frameworks and research agendas. Therefore, we discuss the technological structures and resulting affordances, a new knowledge order and its actors, as well as trust and rationality as important constructs.

10/05/2021

This paper investigates the dimensions of trust and the role of information sources and channels in developing differentiated forms of science communication. The discussions from two public consultations carried out in Italy and Slovakia about controversial science-related topics were quali-quantitatively content analysed. The results show that scientific knowledge pervades diverse communication spheres, producing differentiated paths of trust in science. Each path is determined by topics (environment or health-related), information sources and channels preferred, and specific features of the multifaceted notion of trust. The contribution discusses cross-national commonalities and specificities and proposes implications for science communication.

15/02/2021

Science communication scholars have debated over what factors are related to public support for science and technology. This study examines the relationship between factual knowledge of gene editing technologies, value predispositions, and general science attitudes among four major U.S. agricultural stakeholder groups: farmers, scientists, policymakers, and the general public. Understanding these factors will aid in guiding message strategies for engagement with stakeholder groups. Findings indicate that gene editing knowledge was positively associated with science attitudes for all four groups, while conservative ideology was negatively associated with science attitudes among three of the groups. Implications and limitations are discussed.

01/02/2021

Many of the earliest drivers for improved scientific literacy and understanding were based on the assumption that science and technology is all around us, and yet there are some spaces and communities that are neglected in science communication contexts. In this brief comment, Clare Wilkinson introduces a series of ten commentaries, which further probe neglected spaces in science communication.

25/01/2021

To examine the influence of different actors' fictitious statements about research and deployment of stratospheric aerosol injection (SAI), we conducted an online survey in Germany. Participants assess researchers and a citizens' jury to be more credible than politicians. Credibility has a strong positive effect on SAI acceptance in both pro-SAI and contra-SAI conditions. Reading the statement against SAI-deployment led to significantly lower acceptance scores compared to reading the pro-statement. However, the difference between messages was unexpectedly small, indicating that the message content was not fully adopted while underlying traits and attitudes mainly shaped acceptance even despite, or because of, low levels of knowledge.

14/12/2020

The pandemic now known as COVID-19 crisis, took humanity by surprise. The highly infectious virus designated as SARS-CoV-2, with it epicentre in Wuhan City, crossed international boundaries at an unprecedented pace. Scientific community rose to the occasion, investigated etiology and clinical features, RNA sequence , pathological attributes, prognostic factors, transmission law and preventive measures, etc. of the virus [Harapan, Naoya, Amanda et al., 2020]. Usually, the cycle of generation of scientific knowledge, its publication in specialised journals, validation by international community of experts and then dissemination among the public is a time consuming process [Raza, Singh and Shukla, 2009]. The intensity of pandemic and risk involved reduced the time lag between generation of knowledge and its percolation among the lay public. The scientific knowledge generated in laboratories, within a brief period, shaped perceptions and attitude of both the governments and the lay public. Emergent situations, especially life-threatening episodes also invoked myths, superstitions and conspiracy theories [Van Bavel, Baicker, Boggio et al., 2020]. Media channels publicised scientific information, myths, superstitions and conspiracy theories with equal zeal. However, the study conducted in India suggests that common citizens rejected myths, superstitions and conspiracy theories. In a short period of time common citizens gathered scientific information through multiple channels of media and used it to increase their health security. The authority of science was never so sharply delineated in a highly religious and traditional society. This article looks at the pandemic's disruptive nature, sudden changes in scientific knowledge, rapid crystallisation of perceptions and thereby attitudinal transformation and behavioural changes among the public in India.

14/12/2020

Stories are fundamental to human history, culture and development. Immersive theatre has created a landscape where participants have agency within stories, and within this landscape the concept of narrative transportation provides a framework where change within stories creates change in real life. “Space Plague” is a co-designed, fully immersive theatrical experience for young people and families about a fictional pandemic. It was developed using community-based participatory action research (CBPAR) employing a novel model for engaging underserved and under-represented audiences, “SCENE”. Results confirmed that indications of narrative transportation effects were achieved, demonstrating enhanced learning and understanding alongside changing attitudes and indicated positive change when negotiating the COVID-19 crisis.

09/12/2020

Widening participation in science is a long-held ambition of governments in the U.K. and elsewhere; however numbers of STEM entrants to university from low-socioeconomic status groups remain persistently low. The authors are conducting a long-term school-based space science intervention with a group of pupils from a very-low-participation area, and studied the science attitudes of the participants at the beginning of the programme. Key findings were that young people from the very-low-SES study cohort were just as interested in science study and science jobs as their peers nationally, and had a pre-existing interest in space science. Some participants, particularly boys, demonstrated a ‘concealed science identity’, in that they perceived themselves as a ‘science person’ but thought that other people did not. Boys tended to score higher on generalised ‘science identity’ measures, but the gender difference disappeared on more ‘realist’ measures. In addition, although participants agreed that it was useful to study science, they had little concrete idea as to why. These findings shed light on how science communicators can best address low-SES groups of young people with the aim of increasing their participation in science education and careers. We conclude that interventions with this group that focus on ‘aspiration raising’ are unlikely to be successful, and instead suggest that activities focus on how young people can see science as a realistic path for their future. It would be helpful for in-school programmes to allow young people an outlet to express their science identity, and to give information about the kinds of jobs that studying science may lead to. Further research into whether the gender split on idealist/realist measures of science identity persists over time would be of use.

24/11/2020

For many decades, NGOs and social movements have acted as “alternative” science communicators. They have made strategic use of science to promote their ideological stances, to influence political and/or economic decision-making and to motivate civic action. To date, however, our understanding of science communication in activism has received little critical attention. This set of commentaries acts as a starting point for further research and reflection. The different cases and perspectives urge readers to consider the impact, democratic legitimacy, and relevance of alternative science communication, and the challenges that alternative science communicators pose for science communication and society.

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