Public understanding of science and technology


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.


In recent times we have allegedly witnessed a “post-truth” turn in society. Nonetheless, surveys show that science holds a relatively strong position among lay publics, and case studies suggest that science is part of their online discussions about environmental issues on social media — an important, yet strikingly under-researched, debate forum. Guided by social representation theory, this study aims to contribute knowledge about the role of science in everyday representations of livestock production on social media. The analysis identifies two central themata, namely lay publics' contestations of (1) facts and non-facts, and (2) factual and non-factual sources.


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.


In this study, we suggest to amending the cognitive mediation model of learning from the news to explain the impact of news coverage on climate change on the recipients' acquisition of knowledge about the consequences of climate change. To test our theoretical assumptions, we combine a content analysis of 29 news media channels with a two-wave panel survey before and after the release of the 5th IPCC report. Results show that the amount of information on the consequences of climate change used in print media and prior knowledge are the strongest predictors of the knowledge in the second panel wave.


Meaningful science engagement beyond one-way outreach is needed to encourage science-based decision making. This pilot study aimed to instigate dialogue and deliberation concerning climate change and public health. Feedback from science café participants was used to design a panel-based museum exhibit that asked visitors to make action plans concerning such issues. Using intercept interviews and visitor comment card data, we found that visitors developed general or highly individualistic action plans to address these issues. Results suggest that employing participatory design methods when developing controversial socio-scientific exhibits can aid engagement. We conclude by recommending participatory strategies for implementing two-way science communication.


Over the past decade, science festival expos have emerged as popular opportunities for practicing scientists to engage in education outreach with public audiences. In this paper, a partial proportional odds model was used to analyze 5,498 surveys collected from attendees at 14 science expos around the United States. Respondents who report that they interacted with a scientist rated their experiences more positively than those who reported no such interaction on five categories: overall experience, learning, inspiration, fun, and awareness of STEM careers. The results indicate that scientists can positively affect audience perception of their experience at these large-scale public events.


Young people's decisions to study post-compulsory science are strongly influenced by the attitude of their parents, but many families, especially those from deprived backgrounds, see science as ‘narrow’ and ‘not for us’. We asked whether family attendance at a science festival — a growing but under-studied activity — could shift attitudes. Our mixed-methods study found parents from more deprived areas were disproportionately likely to say attendance had improved their perception of science. Parents from the most deprived areas were significantly more likely to feel increased positivity about their children pursuing science careers. Participants also reported learning about the breadth of careers in science. However we found no evidence that attendance boosted informal science activity in low-SES families.


Identifying private gardens in the U.K. as key sites of environmental engagement, we look at how a longer-term online citizen science programme facilitated the development of new and personal attachments of nature. These were visible through new or renewed interest in wildlife-friendly gardening practices and attitudinal shifts in a large proportion of its participants. Qualitative and quantitative data, collected via interviews, focus groups, surveys and logging of user behaviours, revealed that cultivating a fascination with species identification was key to both ‘helping nature’ and wider learning, with the programme creating a space where scientific and non-scientific knowledge could co-exist and reinforce one another.


We review how the Wellcome Collection exhibition ‘Teeth’ enacts meanings from an educational anthropology and Science and Technology Studies perspective. The exhibition tells the history of dental science. It starts with accounts of the painful procedures and social inequalities of early oral healthcare. As it moves towards the present day it shows improved scientific knowledge, tools and public health promotion, and closes with current sophisticated technologies and practices. However it underrepresents contemporary social inequalities. We conclude that science communication exhibition curators should strive to represent the problems of today as well as those of the past.


The measurement and analysis of people's knowledge on scientific topics, such as climate change, is challenging for researchers. One reason is that objectives are multi-dimensional and that probability is inherent. Moreover, uncertainties can exist on the individual's level among the public, but are rarely grasped by existing scales. Therefore, researchers must thoroughly consider what to measure and how. This paper theorizes five different dimensions of climate change knowledge. Three response scales including different degrees of confidence are applied on data from a German online survey (n=935); empirical results of multivariate regression analyses on attitudes are compared. Results highlight the importance of distinctively measuring dimensions and types of knowledge.


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