Public understanding of science and technology


Public Engagement with Science calls for scientists to think more reflexively about their research, and how assumptions, power and contexts influence associated communication. To interrogate this, we utilised design to stimulate reflexive thinking about science communication through a residential ‘Engagement Incubator’ that took the form of a pop-up cardboard laundromat. Participants reported an increased appreciation for, and insight into, PES theory, and its relevance to their work. In addition, our experience of enacting PES theory, and reflexive thematic analysis of data collected through the process, deepened our own understanding of PES and reinforced our appreciation of engagement as reproductive, and inherently circular work.


The Programme for International Student Assessment (PISA) ranks Mexico in one of the last places in science performance [OECD, 2019]. This has been a concern for some local science communication groups (SCGs) in small and medium-sized cities, whose mission is to fill this disparity by performing science communication (SciCom) activities. The SCGs were contacted via a survey to collect information about their dynamics and public reach. A descriptive analysis enabled the identification of the logistics and coordination issues found among SCGs. Consequently, a local network of science communication groups is advised to reinforce their impact.


There exist today many forms of anti-scientific beliefs, from extreme views like the QAnon conspiracies, to misconceptions about vaccines and cancer treatment. The COVID-19 pandemic has presented to us a situation in which the public is being asked by medical experts and politicians alike to trust in science and follow after various health recommendations like wearing masks or getting vaccinated against the virus. We used an anti-science belief scale [Morgan et al., 2018] to assess how preexisting beliefs that run counter to the scientific narrative predict behaviors during the pandemic. We found that people who were more accepting of those anti-scientific positions trusted medical information and experts less and engaged less in recommended health behaviors, while simultaneously showing a more favorable view of Trump's actions as President during the pandemic.


Traditionally, the Royal Institution's Christmas Lectures have always adopted a deficit model for communication, with one or two invited scientists giving lectures to an audience present at the Royal Institution (Ri) and, since 1936, an audience watching the lectures on television at home. As trends in public engagement have tended towards more dialogue or participatory models, the Ri has made efforts to create a programme of events around the lectures: extending the experience outside of the lecture theatre and giving audiences more opportunities to experience live events and participate in discourse. In this paper, we explore data collected as part of an 18 month evaluation of the Christmas Lectures and their associated events. We focus on data collected at events designed to create live and interactive experiences beyond the lectures and evaluate these participatory approaches. The paper shares this learning to enhance the extension of traditional science communication towards science participation.


This article will take you through the evolution of our approach in presenting and communicating science. For twenty years ‘1, 2, 3, sciences’ has run participatory live workshops for adults. A special tool, the Group Provisory Conclusion or GPC, involving each participant, contributes to the success. Our expectation was to rekindle the public’s interest through participatory methods, supported by the emergence of collective intelligence. It describes our actions to help people reduce their apprehension towards science.


The ‘Born or Built? — Our Robotic Future’ (‘BOB?’) exhibition examines relationships between humans, robots and artificial intelligence. It encourages visitors to explore ethical and social issues surrounding these new technologies and invites visitors to post their own questions. We examine visitor responses to the exhibit “A of the Day”, which encourages visitors to engage by writing down their own question prompted by their experience in ‘BOB?’. As responses were submitted, it became apparent that the questions posed by visitors were potentially a valuable contribution to future science communication policy about robotics, and to those designing and implementing these technologies. We performed a content analysis that distilled themes in visitors' open-ended questioning that conveyed visitor knowledge and insight into what science communication about robotic technologies needs to address. Taken this way, visitors' questions form a moment of dialogue between the public and science communicators, engineers and researchers in which visitors contribute their knowledge and ideas about robotics. Such moments of dialogue are potentially valuable if the public is to be included in the development of robotics technology to build trust in robotics technology.


The impact of human activity on our planet is undeniable. However, this matter of fact is not fully understandable without analyzing the narratives through which people make sense of it. In this study, we aim to describe the narratives present in environmental discourses of Mexican and French YouTubers' videos. This corpus is intended to show how environmental issues are framed in the ever-growing discursive arena of entertainment and “influencing” streaming video. We set out to perform a cross-country comparison, with the purpose of contributing to the discussion of whether environmental discourse is country-specific or shared by various nations and, possibly, even global. Our study contributes to the understanding of the social construction of the environment via these discourses. Our main result points to a paradoxical treatment of environmental issues: the YouTubers of our sample represent them as collectively induced problems, but seem to mainly believe that individual-based solutions would resolve them. More broadly, our study suggests a tendency to the individualization and, therefore, the depoliticization of environmental issues as well as a globalization of the environmental discourses in YouTubers' videos.


Despite scientific consensus that genetically modified (GM) food is safe to eat, the American public remains skeptical. This study (N=73) investigates the proposed role of disgust in driving opposition to GM food, which is debated in extant literature. Using physiological measures of disgust, alongside self-report measures, this study suggests that disgust plays a role in driving skepticism toward GM food, but not other food and health technologies. We further discuss the possible influence of risk sensitivity and perceptions of unnaturalness on attitudes toward novel science.


Social cues are used to facilitate online science communication, yet little is known about how they may play a role in online public engagement with science sites. This mixed-method study investigates r/science Ask Me Anything (AMA) sessions on Reddit through content analysis and an online survey to identify the types and variations of social cues manifested in six r/science AMAs across varying disciplines. The study's contributions are twofold. One is to investigate social cue uses in online science communication; the other is to develop a coding scheme for social cues that incorporates both positive and negative social cues in the analysis.


“Follow the science” became the mantra for responding to COVID-19 pandemic. However, for the public this also meant “follow the scientists”, and this led to uneasiness as some viewed scientists as not credible. We investigate how beliefs about the way scientists develop their findings affect pandemic-related views. Our analysis shows that beliefs about scientists' objectivity predict views regrading coronavirus-related risks, behavioral changes, and policy priorities. While political party identity also predicts views about COVID-19-related concerns, these vary by political leaders whose approaches embraced versus dismissed science-based strategies, highlighting the importance of perceptions of scientists in shaping pandemic-related attitudes and beliefs.


Subscribe to Public understanding of science and technology