Public perception of science and technology

20/04/2016

Volunteer water quality monitors represent the intersection between citizen science and environmental stewardship. Understanding what motivates participation will enable project managers to improve recruitment and retention. This survey of 271 volunteers from eight water quality monitoring organizations in the U.S. found the strongest motivators to participate are helping the environment or community and contributing to scientific knowledge. No variation by gender was found, but younger volunteers have different motivations and preferences than older volunteers. Volunteers value the communication of tangible results more than recognition or reward.

17/03/2016

The prevalent lack of research on the interrelations between science, research and popular culture led to the organization of the first International Conference on Science and Research in Popular Culture #POPSCI2015, which took place at Alpen-Adria-Universität in Klagenfurt, Austria, from 17--18 September 2015. The aim of the conference was to bring together not only science communication researchers with an interest in popular culture, but also other scholars, scientists and researchers, artists, media professionals and members from the general public. In this issue of JCOM we present four invited commentaries which are all based on presentations at the conference.

24/02/2016

Interviews were conducted with 110 marine users to elicit their salient beliefs about recording marine species in a citizen science project. The results showed that many interviewees believe participation would increase knowledge (either scientific, the community's, or their own). While almost half of the interviewees saw no negative outcomes, a small number expressed concerns about targeting of marine species by others, or restrictions on public access to marine sites. Most of the people surveyed (n = 106) emphasised the importance of well-designed technological interfaces to assist their data collection, without which they would be unlikely to engage in the project.

11/06/2015

The representation of self and the nature of our identities often converge through technological forms. This study investigates the promotional techniques of seven companies selling DNA portraits, the objective being to uncover how these images derived from laboratory processes are viewed as valid depictions of the self and scientific knowledge. DNA portraits are revealed as the intertwining of technology and identity through celebrations of the technoself.

26/05/2015

A survey was conducted during the University of Manchester’s 2014 ‘Science Extravaganza’, which saw the participation of over 900 Key Stage 3 (ages 11–14) students in a range of interactive demonstrations, all run by active University researchers. The findings of this study suggest that a new approach is necessary in order to use these large science events to actively engage with school students about the career opportunities afforded by science subjects. Recommendations for such an approach are suggested, including the better briefing of researchers, and the invitation of scientists from outside academia to attend and interact with the school students.

21/05/2015

Throughout the second half of the twentieth century a varied collection of pressure mechanisms were deployed from nuclear technology exporting countries — mainly from the US — to obstruct the development of a group of semi-peripheral countries’ autonomous nuclear capabilities. Argentina was part of this group. This article focuses on how “fear” of nuclear proliferation was used by US foreign policy as one of the most effective political artifacts to construct and protect an oligopolistic nuclear market.
Spread by the press and by some prestigious social science sectors from the US and some European countries, a persistent and dense discourse production was devoted over several decades to the bizarre practice of “calculating” the alleged hidden intentions of those semi-peripheral countries which aspired to dominate as many technologies of the nuclear
fuel cycle as possible.

14/05/2015

Communication of scientific knowledge has been caught up in a pedagogical struggle between science literacy ideologies. The backseat role taken by the teaching of the philosophical and sociological aspects of science has come under fire by those calling for a broader view of science to be made public under the umbrella term “critical science literacy”. In this paper, we argue that the lack of unfinished science in museums — science still in the making or still being debated — is a paradigm case where the richer, fuller view of science is being denied air by the presentation of science as a finished, objective set of facts. We argue that unfinished science offers us the opportunity to present the full complexity of science, including its social and philosophical aspects, and thus enabling the “critical” of critical science literacy.

03/03/2015

This study re-examines the survey responses of embryonic stem cell research prepared for UK Department of Health (DH) in 2006. Aided by the novel method of semantic network analysis, the main purpose of the reanalysis is to “re-present” the overlooked layer of public opinion with respect to embryonic stem cell research, and to reflect on the under-represented public opinion. This critical review attempts to shed light on potential concerns of the UK public in the face of emerging life science policy. The article argues that a new way to encourage people’s articulation and engagement in science policy should be discussed. This means more active incorporation of concepts that represent people’s opinion, belief and value in research. By applying semantic network analysis, we introduce an effective way to visualize and evaluate people’s core frame of embryonic stem cell research.

22/09/2014

The purpose of this study is to quantify the use of science fiction films in academic papers as well as to analyse the patterns of use of those films indexed in international databases, using the ISI Web of Science database. Twenty films were selected from recognised sources. Films referenced in the scientific literature were detected and, with quantitative methodologies, we classified their genres, the journals of publication and the disciplines they belong to. Finally, we performed a detailed study of each paper in which selected films were found, to observe and categorise specifically the ways such film references are used.

25/03/2014

Modern society has led many people to become consumers of data unlike previous generations. How this shift in the way information is communicated and received — including in areas of science — and affects perception and comprehension is still an open question. This study examined one aspect of this digital age: perceptions of astronomical images and their labels, on mobile platforms. Participants were n = 2183 respondents to an online survey, and two focus groups (n = 12 astrophysicists; n = 11 lay public). Online participants were randomly assigned to 1 of 12 images, and compared two label formats. Focus groups compared mobile devices and label formats. Results indicated that the size and quality of the images on the mobile devices affected label comprehension and engagement. The question label format was significantly preferred to the fun fact. Results are discussed in terms of effective science communication using technology.

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