Public understanding of science and technology

26/01/2009

Mouse-related research in the life sciences has expanded remarkably over the last two decades, resulting in growing use of the term “mouse model”. Our interviews with 64 leading Japanese life sciences researchers showed heterogeneities in the definition of “mouse model” in the Japanese life sciences community. Here, we discuss the implications for the relationship between the life sciences community and society in Japan that may result from this ambiguity in the terminology. It is suggested that, in Japanese life sciences, efforts by individual researchers to make their scientific information unambiguous and explanative are necessary.

19/09/2008

Martin W. Bauer is right, two evolutionary processes are under way. These are quite significant and, in some way, they converge into public science communication: a deep evolution of discourse is unfolding, along with an even deeper change of the public understanding of science.

19/09/2008

Global changes such as urbanisation, new ways of travelling, new information and communication technologies are causing radical changes in the relationships between human beings and the environment we are both a part of and depend on. Relationships which – according to a multiplicity of researches in various fields – are crucially important. Science education and the language of science risk exacerbating a tendency towards objectifying nature and inhabiting a virtual reality, thereby rendering ever more tenuous the dialogue between people and the natural world. This article examines two approaches to science and language – as products or as processes – and suggests how awareness of the dynamic relationship between language and knowledge can help restore that vital dialogue.

19/09/2008

Science magazines have an important role in disseminating scientific knowledge into the public sphere and in discussing the broader scope affected by scientific research such as technology, ethics and politics. Student-run science magazines afford opportunities for future scientists, communicators, politicians and others to practice communicating science. The ability to translate ‘scientese’ into a jargon-free discussion is rarely easy: it requires practice, and student magazines may provide good practice ground for undergraduate and graduate science students wishing to improve their communication skills.

21/03/2008

The overseas internship programme offered at Tokyo Institute of Technology as part of the science communication curriculum is highly significant, as it prompts graduate students to acquire new skills and awareness levels, including an enhanced meta-level understanding of the importance and complexity of human communications. The capacity to correlate and respond on-site in human interaction can be gradually cultivated during the internship as students experience diverse communication environments. Moreover, the exposure to different organisational, cultural and social environments helps develop a more international outlook. As a result of the initial experience described in this paper, TiTech has adopted internships as an important part of the educational tool-kit to produce scientists and engineers who can play an active role at the global level using their acquired technical knowledge and broad practical capabilities.

21/03/2008

This article offers a 1953-present day review of the models that have popularised DNA, one of the fundamental molecules of biochemistry. DNA has become an iconic concept over the 20th century, overcoming the boundaries of science and spreading into literature, painting, sculpture or religion. This work analyses the reasons why DNA has penetrated society so effectively and examines some of the main metaphors used by the scientists and scientific popularisers. Furthermore, this article, taken from the author's PhD thesis, describes some recent popularisation models for this molecule.

22/10/2007

Near the turn of the Century, a woman in her 90s from Dodge City, Kansas was riding her horse near the Pecos River and she described it as a sea of saltgrasses...You had to be very close to the river to see it because the grass was so high You could drink the water out of the springs in this area. I used to ride down to the Pecos River on horseback...There was a lot more water in it back then. We grew cantaloupes...and people were amazed at how sweet they were... We stopped because the water [became] was too salty. In 1903, fresh watercress and ferns were growing at Independence Springs [on the Lower Pecos River]...and there were pools of catfish and silver bass. Residents along Independence Creek sold minnows and other bait fish they took from the river. We had a terrible flood in 1941 and 1942 which breached Zimmerman Dam. The river at some places was 10 miles wide. Floodwater covered the valley and the dam was washed out. It seems there is always less water in the Pecos than we need... I think the water quality is worse now-- not that the Pecos River was ever beautiful and clear. When my grandfather got here 110 years ago, they had a lot of water problems then. The prospect of fixing the saltcedar problem and making this area come back the way it was 100 years ago looks bleak for to me...I don't know if we can do that --Quotes from long-time residents of the Pecos River of Texas

20/09/2007

We have analyzed the popularization activities undertaken by ten thousand CNRS researchers by means of their annual reports for the years 2004, 2005 and 2006. This is the first time that such an extensive statistical study on science popularization practices is carried out. Our main findings are : - the majority of researchers is not involved in popularization (51% has not done any popularization over the three-year period, two thirds have been involved in no more than one popularization action). - popularization practices are extremely diverse, both at the individual level (we have identified three subpopulations that feature distinctive attitudes towards popularization), and at the level of scientific disciplines (researchers in Humanities are twice as active as the average), as well as in laboratories or geographical regions. - the number of actions reported in 2005 greatly increased compared to 2004 (+ 26%), while they slightly diminished in 2006.

20/09/2007

Two concepts seemingly distant from each other, scientific education and European citizenship, have been the basis for "SEDEC - Science Education for the Development of European Citizenship", a European project funded by the European Commission in the framework of the Socrates/Comenius programme, aiming at producing training material addressed to European teachers. Started in autumn 2005, the project will end in 2008 with an in-service training course for European teachers and educators.

21/06/2007

The Scientific Communications Act of 2007 (HR 1453) was introduced by the US House of Representatives on 9th March. The National Science Foundation, an independent United States Government agency that supports fundamental research and education, has thus been allowed to spend ten million dollars for each of the fiscal years 2008 through 2012 to provide communications training to improve the ability of scientists to engage in public dialogue.

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