Below is a list of collections of paperS or academic resources focused on science communication and informal STEM learning research.
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THE SCIENCE OF SCIENCE COMMUNICATION
WHAT IT IS: This colloquium was held in Washington, D.C. May 21-22, 2012. The meeting surveyed the state of the art of empirical social science research in science communication and focused on research in psychology, decision science, mass communication, risk communication, health communication, political science, sociology, and related fields on the communication dynamics surrounding issues in science, engineering, technology, and medicine.
Geoengineering and Climate Change Polarization: Testing a Two-channel Model of Science Communication
ABSTRACT: We conducted a two-nation study (United States, n = 1500; England, n = 1500) to test a novel theory of science communication. The cultural cognition thesis posits that individuals make extensive reliance on cultural meanings in forming perceptions of risk. The logic of the cultural cognition thesis suggests the potential value of a distinctive two-channel science communication strategy that combines information content (“Channel 1”) with cultural meanings (“Channel 2”) selected to promote open-minded assessment of information across diverse communities. In the study, scientific information content on climate change was held constant while the cultural meaning of that information was experimentally manipulated. Consistent with the study hypotheses, we found that making citizens aware of the potential contribution of geoengineering as a supplement to restriction of CO2 emissions helps to offset cultural polarization over the validity of climate-change science. We also tested the hypothesis, derived from competing models of science communication, that exposure to information on geoengineering would provoke discounting of climate-change risks generally. Contrary to this hypothesis, we found that subjects exposed to information about geoengineering were slightly more concerned about climate change risks than those assigned to a control condition.
What is the 'Science of Science Communication'?
ABSTRACT: This essay seeks to explain what the “science of science communication” is by *doing* it. Surveying studies of cultural cognition and related dynamics, it demonstrates how the form of disciplined observation, measurement, and inference distinctive of scientific inquiry can be used to test rival hypotheses on the nature of persistent public conflict over societal risks; indeed, it argues that satisfactory insight into this phenomenon can be achieved only by these means, as opposed to the ad hoc story-telling dominant in popular and even some forms of scholarly discourse. Synthesizing the evidence, the essay proposes that conflict over what is known by science arises from the very conditions of individual freedom and cultural pluralism that make liberal democratic societies distinctively congenial to science. This tension, however, is not an “inherent contradiction”; it is a problem to be solved — by the science of science communication understood as a “new political science” for perfecting enlightened self-government.
Below are select peer-reviewed articles related to science communication, outreach, and scientist's understanding of the public.
Note: To abide by copyright laws, we cannot post downloadable .pdfs of articles at this time. If you are interested in a particular article and do not have access through the journal, we recommend contacting the corresponding author directly.
Know of an article you'd like to see added to this list? Email us here.
Geoengineering and Climate Change Polarization:
Testing a Two-Channel Model of Science Communication
We conducted a two-nation study (United States, n = 1500; England, n = 1500) to test a novel theory of science communication. The cultural cognition thesis posits that individuals make extensive reliance on cultural meanings in forming perceptions of risk. The logic of the cultural cognition thesis suggests the potential value of a distinctive two-channel science communication strategy that combines information content (“Channel 1”) with cultural meanings (“Channel 2”) selected to promote open-minded assessment of information across diverse communities. In the study, scientific information content on climate change was held constant while the cultural meaning of that information was experimentally manipulated. Consistent with the study hypotheses, we found that making citizens aware of the potential contribution of geoengineering as a supplement to restriction of CO2 emissions helps to offset cultural polarization over the validity of climate-change science. We also tested the hypothesis, derived from competing models of science communication, that exposure to information on geoengineering would provoke discounting of climate-change risks generally. Contrary to this hypothesis, we found that subjects exposed to information about geoengineering were slightly more concerned about climate change risks than those assigned to a control condition.
The science of sharing and the sharing of science
Why do members of the public share some scientific findings and not others? What can scientists do to increase the chances that their findings will be shared widely among nonscientists? To address these questions, we integrate past research on the psychological drivers of interpersonal communication with a study examining the sharing of hundreds of recent scientific discoveries. Our findings offer insights into (i) how attributes of a discovery and the way it is described impact sharing, (ii) who generates discoveries that are likely to be shared, and (iii) which types of people are most likely to share scientific discoveries. The results described here, combined with a review of recent research on interpersonal communication, suggest how scientists can frame their work to increase its dissemination. They also provide insights about which audiences may be the best targets for the diffusion of scientific content.
What do scientists think about the public and does it matter to their online engagement?
A survey of a large, US-based science organization with members from a range of disciplines (n = 431) found relatively positive views about the public but such views were largely unrelated to past online engagement or willingness to engage in the future. Social norms, efficacy, and a desire to contribute to the public debate were the primary correlates of engagement. The research aims to provide quantitative evidence about how specific attitudes might limit scientists’ willingness to communicate with the public online in the context of recent calls to scientists to take a more active role in public debates about policy involving scientific issues. It highlights substantial remaining uncertainty about the drivers of engagement and the attendant need for ongoing research.
(Scientists) Communicating Science in New Media Environments
Public communication about science faces novel challenges, including the increasing complexity of research areas and the erosion of traditional journalistic infrastructures. Although scientists have traditionally been reluctant to engage in public communication at the expense of focusing on academic productivity, our survey of highly cited U.S. nano-scientists, paired with data on their social media use, shows that public communication, such as interactions with reporters and being mentioned on Twitter, can contribute to a scholar’s scientific impact. Most importantly, being mentioned on Twitter amplifies the effect of interactions with journalists and other non-scientists on the scholar’s scientific impact.
Organizational Influence on Scientists’ Efforts to Go Public
An Empirical Investigation
This article contributes to the debate on the influence of organizational settings on scientists’ media contact. Drawing on a quantitative survey of researchers (n = 942) from 265 German universities, the results indicate that a large proportion of scientists from all disciplines participate regularly in the dissemination of research findings. The authors provide evidence that scientists’ media efforts are influenced by how they adopt their university’s desire to be visible in the media, as well as by the university’s PR activities. The increased orientation toward news media is discussed in the light of the new governance of science within Europe.
Narratives of Science Outreach in Elite Contexts of Academic Science
Using data from interviews with 133 physicists and biologists working at elite research universities in the United States, we analyze narratives of outreach. We identify discipline-specific barriers to outreach and gender-specific rationales for commitment. Physicists view outreach as outside of the scientific role and a possible threat to reputation. Biologists assign greater value to outreach, but their perceptions of the public inhibit commitment. Finally, women are more likely than men to participate in outreach, a commitment that often results in peer-based informal sanctions. The study reveals how the cultural properties of disciplines, including the status of women, shape the meaning and experience of science outreach.
Communicating Science in Social Settings
This essay examines the societal dynamics surrounding modern science. It first discusses a number of challenges facing any effort to communicate science in social environments: lay publics with varying levels of preparedness for fully understanding new scientific breakthroughs; the deterioration of traditional media infrastructures; and an increasingly complex set of emerging technologies that are surrounded by a host of ethical, legal, and social considerations. Based on this overview, I discuss four areas in which empirical social science helps clarify intuitive but sometimes faulty assumptions about the social-level mechanisms of science communication and outline an agenda for bench and social scientists—driven by current social-scientific research in the field of science communication—to guide more effective communication efforts at the societal level in the future.
Using narratives and storytelling to communicate science with nonexpert audiences
Although storytelling often has negative connotations within science, narrative formats of communication should not be disregarded when communicating science to nonexpert audiences. Narratives offer increased comprehension, interest, and engagement. Nonexperts get most of their science information from mass media content, which is itself already biased toward narrative formats. Narratives are also intrinsically persuasive, which offers science communicators tactics for persuading otherwise resistant audiences, although such use also raises ethical considerations. Future intersections of narrative research with ongoing discussions in science communication are introduced.
Why Public Dissemination of Science Matters: A Manifesto
Communicating science to the public takes time away from busy research careers. So why would you do it? I here offer six reasons. First, we owe that understanding to the people who fund our experiments, the taxpaying public. Second, we can leverage our skills as scientists to inspire critical thinking in public and political dialog. Third, researchers are optimally positioned to stem the flow of scientific misinformation in the media. Fourth, we can explain the ways and the means by which science can (and cannot) improve law and social policy. Fifth, it is incumbent upon us to explain what science is and is not: while it is a way of thinking that upgrades our intuitions, it also comes with a deep understanding of (and tolerance for) uncertainty. Finally, we find ourselves in the pleasurable position of being able to share the raw beauty of the world around us—and in the case of neuroscience, the world inside us. I suggest that scientists are optimally stationed to increase their presence in the public sphere: our training positions us to synthesize large bodies of data, weigh the evidence, and communicate with nuance, sincerity and exactitude.