Science communication: theory and models


Computational social science represents an interdisciplinary approach to the study of reality based on advanced computer tools. From economics to political science, from journalism to sociology, digital approaches and techniques for the analysis and management of large quantities of data have now been adopted in several disciplines. The papers in this JCOM commentary focus on the use of such approaches and techniques in the research on science communication. As the papers point out, the most significant advantages of a computational approach in this sector include the chance to open up a range of new research opportunities: from the study of technical and scientific controversies to citizen science, from the definition of new norms and practices for science journalism to open science issues. On the other hand, difficulties are shared with other areas of application. The main risk is that the large quantity of data available can overwhelm the importance of theory. Instead, as the papers in this commentary demonstrate, big data should push scientists to pursue a deeper epistemological and methodological reflection also in the research on science communication.


van den Sanden and Vries curate reflections and insights about the shared goals, practices and processes which bring together academics and practitioners in science education and communication. The book spotlights areas of productive overlap but is just the beginning for meaningful collaboration.


In this article, we present three challenges to the emerging Open Science (OS) movement: the challenge of communication, collaboration and cultivation of scientific research. We argue that to address these challenges OS needs to include other forms of data than what can be captured in a text and extend into a fully-fledged Open Media movement engaging with new media and non-traditional formats of science communication. We discuss two cases where experiments with open media have driven new collaborations between scientists and documentarists. We use the cases to illustrate different advantages of using open media to face the challenges of OS.


Written in response to a previous article by Weingart and Guenther [2016] in JCOM, this letter aims to open up some critical issues concerning the ‘new ecology of communication’. It is argued that this evolving ecology needs to be openly explored without looking back to a previous idyll of ‘un-tainted’ science.


This issue of JCOM presents some interesting challenges relating to trust and the media ecology that supports science communication. Weingart and Guenther have organised a set of commentaries considering the issue of trust and media from different points of view, by asking for responses to their paper 'Science Communication and the Issue of Trust'. The commentaries focus on traditional and social media and the actors that contribute to media content, though they do not consider 'paid for' content (also known as advertising), which is the subject of a paper by Silva and Simonian also published in this issue of JCOM.


Factors that influence reception and use of information are represented in this koru model of science communication using the metaphor of a growing plant. Identity is central to this model, determining whether an individual attends to information, how it is used and whether access to it results in increased awareness, knowledge or understanding, changed attitudes or behaviour. In this koru model, facts are represented as nutrients in the soil; the matrix influences their availability. Communication involves reorganisation of facts into information, available via channels represented as roots. When information is taken up, engagement with it is influenced by external factors (social norms, support and control) and internal factors (values, beliefs, attitudes, awareness, affect, understanding, skills and behaviour) which affect whether the individual uses it to form new knowledge.


In considering the ethos of science, Robert Merton [1973] posited that openness and secrecy reflect opposing values in the accomplishment of science. According to Merton, scientific inquiry required that all interested parties have access to and freely share scientific information. In our current epoch, this importance of openness in science seems even more widely accepted. It is a given nowadays that scientists are expected to work as part of a team, not only within their own department, but also with other departments different disciplines. To work interdisciplinary scientists must become more communicative and critically talk about difference, which asks maximum transparency and open communication of the participants. However, against the adage that openness and participation in science is an inherent good, one easily forgets that the actual practice of collaborating may also require things are not said. Navigating everyday interactional challenges may depend on postponing issues to keep the process going, for instance because scientists still have to figure out what they find important in the collaboration with others. But also issues like, withholding sensitive problems or not critiquing each other's options viewpoints, leaving points shrewdly of the agenda, and excluding relevant actors from the meeting table. Despite the idea of open innovation, shared visions, beliefs and knowledge we must focus on silence for the good and the bad as well.


The twenty-first century has witnessed a shift in science communication ideals from one-way science popularization activities towards more reflexive, participatory approaches to public engagement with science. Yet our longue duéee histories of science communication's antecedents focus on the former and have neglected the latter. In this paper I identify parallels between modern science communication ideals and an iconic Enlightenment text, Condorcet's Sketch for a Historical Picture of the Progress of the Human Mind (1795). I show that Condorcet's carefully negotiated balance between scientific reason and radical principles of democracy has much in common with twenty-first century debates about science communication.


The letter compares and contrasts thinking about making science accessible and relevant to children in science centres and museums with thinking about communication in social history museums.


As a result of the large number of media used and a variety of objectives pursued by the various Public Communication of Science (PCS) activities, their evaluation turns into a daunting task. Therefore, a general taxonomy for all the approaches used by PCS could be helpful in order to differentiate their effects and to measure their results. A general format is proposed for a fast and easy evaluation of PCS efforts and to share a common language with all science communicators, who need to easily compare the results of this growing activity.


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