Public perception of science and technology

02/11/2020

U.S. and other publics perceive STEM (science, technology, engineering, and mathematics) fields as masculine and scientist as a male occupation, but Japanese public perception remains unstudied. Using an online survey, we identified keywords associated with physics, chemistry, mechanical engineering, information science, biology, and mathematics. A second online survey showed that the Japanese public perceived both keywords and fields as masculine. This trend was stronger in individuals with less egalitarian attitudes towards gender roles. We suggest that attitude towards gender roles contributes to the masculine image of science in Japan.

30/09/2020

The emergence of COVID-19 represented a critical problem for the legitimacy and prestige of the Chinese Communist Party. The Chinese authorities had to fight not only to contain the spread of the virus but also to create a favorable public opinion about how they managed the crisis. Based on Foucault's approach to the “Regime of Truth”, this article analyzes the narrative surrounding the origin of the virus and how science was employed to lend it legitimacy. The article concludes by reviewing how the idea of science as a truth knowledge is used to construct a particular viewpoint, one focused on legitimizing the outbreak containment measures taken by the Chinese government.

30/09/2020

The onset of the COVID-19 pandemic has highlighted the criticality of science communication. Utilising a mixed-methods approach, this article takes an audience-focused perspective to analysing COVID-19 related social media posts on 23 popular South Pacific community Facebook pages over a four-month period across eight South Pacific countries. We analyse how audiences co-opt scientific terms, address information gaps and embed it in their lived experience. It is ascertained that online conversations around COVID-19 in the Pacific are intermeshed with both scientific fact and, personal accounts and rumours, referred to locally as ‘coconut wireless’, problematising established modes of empirical enquiry.

30/09/2020

Based on recent accounts of the sociology of expertise, we analyse the public contestation and expansion of expertise in the context of COVID-19. During the epidemic, the expertise of the Finnish Institute for Health and Welfare (THL), became increasingly contested. By exploring Twitter discussions concerning the actions of THL during the first months of the epidemic from January to mid-June 2020, we analyse the main motivations and arguments in this public contestation as well as the alternative forms of expertise proposed by the critics. We focus particularly on two forms of criticism arguing for what we call networked expertise: liberal crowdsourcing supporters and data-solutionists presenting alternative epidemiological models.

30/09/2020

Understanding how individuals perceive the barriers and benefits of precautionary actions is key for effective communication about public health crises, such as the COVID-19 outbreak. This study used innovative computational methods to analyze 30,000 open-ended responses from a large-scale survey to track how Wisconsin (U.S.A.) residents' perceptions of the benefits of and barriers to performing social distancing evolved over a critical time period (March 19th to April 1st, 2020). Initially, the main barrier was practical related, however, individuals later perceived more multifaceted barriers to social distancing. Communication about COVID-19 should be dynamic and evolve to address people's experiences and needs overtime.

17/08/2020

Expert debates have become a popular form to inform the public about scientific issues. To deepen our knowledge about individuals who attend such formats and to investigate what they expect of the dissemination of science, this study analyzes the attendants of scientific expert debates and their expectations. Cluster analysis is applied to survey data (n=358) to explore whether distinct segments may be distinguishable within this supposedly homogeneous audience. Four different segments were identified and, overall, the findings indicate that attendants expect science communication to not only present scientific findings comprehensibly and from different perspectives, but also to create everyday life applicability, whereas interacting with scientists is of less interest.

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.

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