Public perception of science and technology


Information visualization could be used to leverage the credibility of displayed scientific data. However, little was known about how display characteristics interact with individuals' predispositions to affect perception of data credibility. Using an experiment with 517 participants, we tested perceptions of data credibility by manipulating data visualizations related to the issue of nuclear fuel cycle based on three characteristics: graph format, graph interactivity, and source attribution. Results showed that viewers tend to rely on preexisting levels of trust and peripheral cues, such as source attribution, to judge the credibility of shown data, whereas their comprehension level did not relate to perception of data credibility. We discussed the implications for science communicators and design professionals.


Public trust in agricultural biotechnology organizations that produce so-called ‘genetically-modified organisms’ (GMOs) is affected by misinformed attacks on GM technology and worry that producers' concern for profits overrides concern for the public good. In an experiment, we found that reporting that the industry engages in open and transparent research practices increased the perceived trustworthiness of university and corporate organizations involved with GMOs. Universities were considered more trustworthy than corporations overall, supporting prior findings in other technology domains. The results suggest that commitment to, and communication of, open and transparent research practices should be part of the process of implementing agricultural biotechnologies.


The Science in Public Conference, held this year at the University of Sheffield, generated animated discussion of a wide range of topics. Six commentaries cover conference themes around engagement with science and technology and how science and technology are shaping what it means to be human. The commentaries range from discussions of our relationship with expertise and how science communication can better act as a knowledge broker in a time of ‘alternative facts’ to exploration of fictional narratives and how they might be used to open up dialogue about science and technology.


To unravel how science museums can prepare citizens for reflection on research and innovation, this study evaluates a playful exhibit prototype, Opinion Lab (OL). The OL made children and parents reflect on synthetic biology (SB), supported by conversation exercises, citizen-narratives, and futuristic scenarios. We analysed 26 OL test sessions performed in NEMO science museum Amsterdam. The prototype appeared to support participants in opinion forming, counter-argument incorporation and extrapolation. Also, reflection on deeper questions such as `what is nature?' evoked understanding for alternative viewpoints. These findings show that playful exhibits, like the OL, potentially facilitate dialogue in science museums very well.


How users discuss climate change online is one of the crucial questions (science) communication scholars address nowadays. This study contributes by approaching the issue through the theoretical concept of online public arenas. The diversity of topics and perceptions in the climate change discourse is explored by comparing different arenas. German journalistic articles and their reader comments as well as scientific expert blogs are analyzed by quantitative manual and automated content analysis (n=5,301). Findings demonstrate a larger diversity of topics and interpretations in arenas with low barriers to communication. Overall, climate change skepticism is rare, but mostly present in lay publics.


This article proposes a classification of the current differences between online videos produced specifically for television and online videos produced for the Internet, based on online audiovisual production on climate change. The classification, which consists of 18 formats divided into two groups that allow comparisons to be made between television and web formats, was created through the quantitative and qualitative content analysis of a sample of 300 videos. The findings show that online video's capacity to generate visits is greater when it has been designed to be broadcast on the Internet than when produced for television.


Englehard et al. provide a wide-ranging look at synthetic biology, from discussion of how one might classify different synthetic approaches to consideration of risk and ethical issues. The chapter on public engagement considers why synthetic biology seems to sit below the public radar.


This letter reflects on how the role of science in society evolved in 2016. While there were plenty of groundbreaking scientific discoveries, the shifting political landscape cultivated a tempestuous relationship between science and society. We discuss these developments and the potential role of the science communication community in political activism.


Social media is increasingly being used by science communicators, journalists and government agencies to engage in discourse with a range of publics. Despite a growing body of literature on Twitter use, the communication of science via Twitter is comparatively under explored. This paper examines the prominence of scientific issues in political debate occurring on Twitter during the 2013 and 2016 Australian federal election campaigns. Hashtracking of the umbrella political hashtag auspol was used to capture tweets during the two campaign periods. The 2013 campaign was particularly relevant as a major issue for both parties was climate change mitigation, a controversial and partisan issue. Therefore, climate change discussion on Twitter during the 2013 election was used as a focal case study in this research. Subsamples of the 2013 data were used to identify public sentiment and major contributors to the online conversation, specifically seeking to see if scientific, governmental, media or ‘public' sources were the more dominant instigators. We compare the prominence of issues on Twitter to mainstream media polls over the two campaign periods and argue that the potential of Twitter as an effective public engagement tool for science, and for politicised scientific issues in particular, is not being realised.


Of all the online information tools that the public relies on to collect information and share opinions about scientific and environmental issues, Twitter presents a unique venue to assess the spontaneous and genuine opinions of networked publics, including those about a focusing event like the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear accident following the 2011 Tohoku earthquake and tsunami. Using computational linguistic algorithms, this study analyzes a census of English-language tweets about nuclear power before, during, and after the Fukushima nuclear accident. Results show that although discourse about the event may have faded rapidly from the news cycle on traditional media, it evoked concerns about reactor safety and the environmental implications of nuclear power, particularly among users in U.S. states that are geographically closer to the accident site. Also, while the sentiment of the tweets was primarily pessimistic about nuclear power weeks after the accident, overall sentiment became increasingly neutral and uncertain over time. This study reveals there is a group of concerned citizens and stakeholders who are using online tools like Twitter to communicate about global and local environmental and health risks related to nuclear power. The implications for risk communication and public engagement strategies are discussed.


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