Public understanding of science and technology


The literature illustrates how media research on the energy question is characterized by a limited focus on separate energy options, resulting in a lack of research into the diversity of and mutual relations between various energy options. This paper reports on a quantitative content analysis of eight Belgian newspapers (N=1181), focusing on whether certain energy options are systematically more covered in certain regions, types of newspapers and/or types of newspaper sections. The results show that five energy options dominate the debate and that there are minimal differences per region, but remarkable differences between types of newspapers and newspaper sections.


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.


The Internet is increasingly considered as a legitimate source of information on scientific and technological topics. Lay individuals are increasingly using Internet sources to find information about new technological developments, but scientific communities might have a limited understanding of the nature of this content. In this paper we examine the nature of the content of information about fusion energy on the Internet. By means of a content and thematic analysis of a sample of English-, Spanish- and Portuguese-language web documents, we analyze the structural characteristics of the webs, characterize the presentation of nuclear fusion, and study the associations to nuclear fission and the main benefits and risks associated to fusion technologies in the Web. Our findings indicate that the information about fusion on the Internet is produced by a variety of actors (including private users via blogs), that almost half of the sample provided relevant technical information about nuclear fusion, that the majority of the web documents provided a positive portrayal of fusion energy (as a clean, safe and powerful energy technology), and that nuclear fusion was generally presented as a potential solution to world energy problems, as a key scientific challenge and as a superior alternative to nuclear fission. We discuss the results in terms of the role of Internet in science communication.


Public participation in decision-making has in the last decades become a common refrain in political and scientific discourse, yet it does not often truly come to fruition. The present study focuses on the underlying issue, that of the construction of the difference between scientific and public knowledge and its consequences. Through discourse analysis of scientific texts on sustainable development three distinct groups of Slovenian social scientists were discerned that differed in their views on the relationship between scientific and public knowledge and consequently the role and nature of public participation in decision-making processes. With a rise in participatory practices the preponderance of the deficit model found in this study remains problematic.


This paper presents results from three studies on science blogging, the use of blogs for science communication. A survey addresses the views and motives of science bloggers, a first content analysis examines material published in science blogging platforms, while a second content analysis looks at reader responses to controversial issues covered in science blogs. Bloggers determine to a considerable degree which communicative function their blog can realize and how accessible it will be to non-experts Frequently readers are interested in adding their views to a post, a form of involvement which is in turn welcomed by the majority of bloggers.


Previous studies on public engagement with science have identified various difficulties in the encounters between experts and lay people. However, there is a scarcity of research investigating expert-youth interaction. In this paper we focus on the interactive framings of an informal PES event. Based on a case study involving a climate change panel discussion and a simultaneous online chat, both aimed at young people, we discuss the multiplicity of framing. Further, we look for “misbehaviours” which challenge the rationality and norms of the event. Our findings indicate that the frame of deliberative participation is very fragile.


Communicating science to scientists works well thanks to well-defined communication structures based on both printed material in peer-reviewed publications   and oral presentations, e.g.\ at conferences and seminars. However, when science is communicated to practitioners, the structures become fuzzy. We are   looking at how to implement Web2.0 technologies to Danish seed scientists communicating to seed consultants, agricultural advisors, and seed growers, and  we are met with the challenge of securing effective knowledge diffusion to the community. Our investigation's focal point is on Rogers' theoretical framework  ``Diffusion of Innovation'' (DOI), as we look at how DOI may affect the Danish seed industry if science communication is redesigned in accordance with the  framework. During our project workshop, participants recognized trends and characteristics from DOI in the Danish seed community and argued for more  collaboration between scientists and practitioners. This can be done by implementing fast-learning via online website, but it needs to be assisted by   slower-paced face-to-face learning to lessen the risk of a digital knowledge divide within the community.


This paper investigated the potential of the Public Internet Terminal (PIT) system to promote basic health education for two rural communities in the North West Province of South Africa. A case study approach was used. Participants were selected from a population group of teachers, nurses, business people and  students in the two communities. Observation, group interviews and questionnaire were used to gather evidence from the participants regarding their  operational difficulties, social/economic difficulties and perceived usefulness of using the PIT system for basic health education. The findings revealed that a high number of participants could not operate the PIT system to search for relevant health information. Participants cited reasons of information overload and slow response of the PIT system. Further findings revealed that many participants lack awareness of the PIT services in these post offices. Participants  indicated that the PIT system lacks local content specific information such as healthcare information on vaccination, personal hygiene, nutrition and pharmacies around their vicinities. The results from this study led to the recommendations which emphasized the incorporation of basic e-health education portal into the existing services on the PIT system and proposed a new user interface for the PIT.


Currently, science is developing rapidly and its influence on society is more significant than ever. This is all the more reason for today’s scientists to interact with the general public. To design effective science communication activities, we must understand scientists’ motivations and barriers to publicly communicating science. In this study, we interviewed 19 early-career scientists who had participated in science cafes in Japan. From these interviews, we identified five factors leading to their reluctance to participate in science cafes: 1) troublesome or time-consuming; 2) pressure to be an appropriate science representative; 3) outside the scope of their work; 4) could not perceive any benefit; and 5) apprehension about dialogue with the public. Among these factors, apprehension about dialogue may be the clearest reflection of the scientists’ underlying feelings about this form of communication and an indicator of more intrinsic barriers to engaging in science cafes.


This paper compares opinion-leading newspapers’ frames of stem cell research in the UK and South Korea from 2000 to 2008. The change of news frames, studied by semantic network analysis, in three critical periods (2000-2003/2004-2005/2006-2008) shows the media’s representative strategies in privileging news topics and public sentiments. Both political and national identity represented by each media outlet play a crucial role in framing scientific issues. A news frame that objectifies medical achievements and propagates a popular hope evolves as a common discourse in The Telegraph and The Guardian, with expanded issues that both incorporate and keep in check social concerns. South Korea’s Chosun Ilbo follows the frame of objectified science with a strong economic motivation, while Hankyoreh remains critical of the ‘Hwang scandal’ and tempers its scientific interest with broader political concerns.


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