Public understanding of science and technology


The inaugural "Mr. Science" Science Communication Conference was held in Suzhou, China on July 9, 2021. It was the largest Chinese conference on science communication study since the start of the 21st century. More than 260 scholars discussed the spirit and culture of science, science communication during the COVID-19 crisis, the public understanding of science, and the ethical aspects of science communication. The conference aimed to develop a system for researching science communication within China. This review outlines the content of the conference and summarizes the key trends in science communication research in China.


To address science literacy issues, university faculty have to engage in effective science communication. However, social pressures from peers, administration, or the public may silence their efforts. The purpose of this study was to understand the effect of the spiral of silence on faculty's engagement with science communication. A survey was distributed to a census of tenure-track faculty at the University of Florida [UF], and the findings did not support the spiral of silence was occurring. However, follow-up interviews revealed faculty did not perceive their peers to value science communication and were more concerned about how the public felt about their research and communication.


Little is known about how incidental exposure to news, interpersonal discussion, and the diversity of social networks interact in social media environments and for science-related issues. Using a U.S. nationally representative survey, we investigate how these features relate to factual knowledge of gene editing. Incidental exposure to science-related news interacts with interpersonal discussion and network heterogeneity and reveals that the relationship between incidental exposure to news and knowledge is strongest among those who discuss the least. Incidental exposure could alleviate knowledge gaps between the Facebook users who are the most and least involved in interpersonal discussions about science.


Science communication scholars have debated over what factors are related to public support for science and technology. This study examines the relationship between factual knowledge of gene editing technologies, value predispositions, and general science attitudes among four major U.S. agricultural stakeholder groups: farmers, scientists, policymakers, and the general public. Understanding these factors will aid in guiding message strategies for engagement with stakeholder groups. Findings indicate that gene editing knowledge was positively associated with science attitudes for all four groups, while conservative ideology was negatively associated with science attitudes among three of the groups. Implications and limitations are discussed.


On February 11, 2020, the World Health Organization announced the name of a new disease, COVID-19. As the virus that causes the disease spread across the globe, the world went into crisis mode. The various actors of the COVID-19 crisis include, in part, politicians, scientists, health experts, citizens, journalists, front line workers, first responders, organizations, and so on. Their voices and their related communicative processes play out in the rhetorical arena that emerges from the crisis. Crisis memes are a particularly intriguing and salient part of the COVID-19 public discourse. Combining the theoretical implications of rhetorical arena theory (RAT) with multimodality and its close ties to social semiotics, this paper will analyze the unique nature of memes created during the cycle of a crisis.


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.


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.


Public acceptance of vaccination and Genetically Modified (GM) food is low and opposition is stiff. During two science festivals in France, we discussed in small groups the scientific evidence and current consensus on the benefits of vaccination and GM food safety. Our interventions reinforced people's positive opinions on vaccination and produced a drastic positive shift of GM food opinions. Despite the controversial nature of the topics discussed, there were very few cases of backfire effects among the 175 participants who volunteered. These results should encourage scientists to engage more often with the public during science festivals, even on heated topics.


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.


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.


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