Public perception of science and technology

04/05/2020

The popularity of the anti-vax movement in the United States and elsewhere is the cause of new lethal epidemics of diseases that are fully preventable by modern medicine [Benecke and DeYoung, 2019]. Creationism creeps into science classrooms with the aim of undermining the teaching of evolution through legal obligations or school boards’ decisions to present both sides of a debate largely foreign to the scientific community [Taylor, 2017]. And one simply has to turn on the TV and watch so-called science channels to be bombarded with aliens, ghosts, cryptids and miracles as though they are undisputable facts [Prothero, 2012]. Deprecated by its detractors, scientific proof is assimilated to become one opinion among others, if not a mere speculation. Worse, scientific data that challenge partisan positions or economic interests are dismissed as ‘junk science’ and their proponents as ‘shills’ [Oreskes and Conway, 2010]. By echoing such statements, some members of the media, often willing accomplices in conflating denial and scepticism, amplify manufactured controversies and cast growing doubt upon scientific credibility.

16/03/2020

This study explores the effects of food science perception on food decisions in the controversial case of genetically modified (GM) foods. We examine (1) how scientific consensus and scientific deference affect the public perception of GM foods; and (2) how perception and healthy eating interest influence people's actual food consumption decisions. We categorized our samples into four groups based on different risk/benefit perceptions of GM food: tradeoff, relaxed, skeptical, and uninterested in the process of further data analysis.

09/03/2020

Many studies have examined the impression that the general public has of science and how this can prevent girls from choosing science fields. Using an online questionnaire, we investigated whether the public perception of several academic fields was gender-biased in Japan. First, we found the gender-bias gap in public perceptions was largest in nursing and mechanical engineering. Second, people who have a low level of egalitarian attitudes toward gender roles perceived that nursing was suitable for women. Third, people who have a low level of egalitarian attitudes perceived that many STEM fields are suitable for men. This suggests that gender-biased perceptions toward academic fields can still be found in Japan.

10/02/2020

The goal of Science Cafés and Science on Taps is to encourage open discourse between scientists and the public in a casual setting (e.g., a bar) in order to improve the public understanding of, and trust in, science. These events have existed for over two decades, but there is no research studying their efficacy. Data presented here demonstrate that a yearlong Science on Tap series induced little change among the attendees with respect to attitudes, emotions, and knowledge about the nature of science. Ultimately, we found this event may be preaching to the choir rather than changing hearts and minds.

13/01/2020

While previous studies have found games and gaming to be a new and innovative communication strategy to inform the public and citizens about scientific research and engage them with it, this article addresses the under-researched question of credibility aspects in research-based gaming. The study analyses agricultural stakeholders' discussions on the credibility of scientific descriptions in The Maladaptation Game — a game based on research on climate change maladaptation in Nordic agriculture. The analysis of focus group transcripts and frame credibility finds that players attribute credibility to 1) the perceived correspondence between game-articulated information on climate change, suggested adaptation actions and their potential maladaptive outcome, 2) the perceived “fit” between these elements and players' experiences, and 3) the information sources underpinning the game. Lastly, the article discusses the role of research-based games in science communication and advocates the need for careful balance between models of conceptual and scientific thinking in game design and everyday experiences among players.

09/12/2019

In this article, we follow up on food scientists' findings that people judge new food technologies and related products (un)favourably immediately after just hearing the name of the technology. From the reactions, it appears that people use their attitudes to technologies they know to evaluate new technologies. Using categorization theory, in this study we have found that, by triggering associations with a familiar technology, a name of the new technology can be enough to determine emerging attitudes. Comparison between the technology used for categorization and another familiar technology had a slight influence on the attitude formation process.

14/10/2019

Public confidence in research is important for scientific results to achieve societal impact. Swedish surveys suggest consistent but differing levels of confidence in different research areas. Thus, certain research-related factors can be assumed to have a decisive influence on confidence levels. This focus-group study explores the role of different narratives in shaping public confidence in research. Findings include four themes with potential to increase or decrease public confidence: Person, Process, Product and Presentation. The results offer insights as to how public confidence in research is formed and may give researchers agency in promoting confidence through their communication activities.

16/09/2019

In early August 2019, the U.S.A. saw 2 significant mass shootings in just 48 hours. On Twitter, Neil deGrasse Tyson responded with a tweet to his millions of followers. He outlined the number of deaths in 48 hours from other causes, and seemed to disparage the human tendency to respond emotionally “more to spectacle than to data”. The tweet resulted in an uproar. This “twitterstorm” might provide important lessons for practicing science communicators. The first lesson outlined in this letter is about the use of analogy in science communication, and the second is about how emotion is addressed in science communication.

25/02/2019

This study uses the online discourse surrounding an Austrian publicly-funded study about “Islamic kindergartens” as a case study to approach communication about the social sciences in the online public sphere. Results from a discourse analysis of 937 user comments in online forums of two Austrian daily newspapers show that the social sciences are often referred to as a “special case”. While some use this argument to neglect its societal relevance, others use it to highlight its role as societal problem solver. Moreover, users discuss characteristics of “true” social scientists and scrutinise the independence of institutionalised social science.

18/02/2019

A timely arrival in the academic literature on science communication through online video, this book reports on the results of a major international project that has explored in depth this emerging field of research.

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