Author: Hedwig te Molder, Wageningen University, Netherlands

Co-author: Wytske Versteeg

This paper examines the role of ‘hidden moralities’ in public discussions, in which a scientific truth, such as what healthy food is or real ADHD, is juxtaposed against ‘mere’ belief or experience. On the basis of a discourse analysis of public radio debates on ADHD (UK) and the flu shot (Netherlands), we argue that this type of debate – which apparently only deals with contested knowledge – touches moral issues of identity that are just as essential for the course of the debate as they are hard to recognize.

It is shown that callers use their experience as entry ticket to the debates, and then position it as having relevance beyond their own, individual domain. Rather than directly rejecting these claims, the radio hosts undermine callers’ experiential knowledge by portraying the callers as blindly trusting their own experience and therefore being naive. Callers subsequently use scientific knowledge, and allusions to scientific procedure in particular, to prove their ‘epistemic vigilance’. The results suggest that it is not so much the callers’ epistemic claims that are at stake here, but first and foremost their identity as a potentially gullible and non-rational person.

More broadly, the results provide a possible explanation for the frequent contestation of factual sources in public exchanges. If epistemic claims are tightly interwoven with identity work, such contestation might not be so much a matter of distrust in science, as is often argued, but a demonstration of one’s critical attitude. ‘Lay’ participants use both science and experience to show that they are all but naive. If we want to conduct fruitful discussions and include non-scientists in a better way, uncovering this everyday moral dimension is crucial. Science communication research should therefore not restrict itself to organized debates on science and technology but also include real-life discussions on these matters.

Author: Britt Wray, University of Copenhagen, Denmark

This presentation is concerned with the use and influence of personal imagination in ‘performative sentences’ about synthetic biology, and how the role of the science communicator might be revitalized to nuance such imaginaries. The paper begins with an analysis of depictions of synthetic biology as a revolutionary field that allows scientists to “not only alter nature but guide human evolution as well,” where life becomes more than “as it could be,” transforming into “life as we could make it be” (Pauwels, 2013). Synthetic biology’s ‘economic calculus’ that connects ‘engineering practice to a plurality of life forms’ has created the condition upon which it appears unprecedented (Mackenzie, 2013). But is this lack of precedents real, or imaginary? I will present my initial findings from an interactive science engagement project I’ve created that comprises my PhD, that involves the private thoughts and feelings of a group of practitioners who have been connected to synthetic biology through their work in recent years. It catalyzes experimental discussions and audio recordings between scientists, philosophers, anthropoligists, bioartists, bioethicists and entrepreneurs about the imaginaries that construct our understandings of ‘neo-life’ that synthetic biology brings forth. This is done in an attempt to generate experiments in knowledge production between scientists, social researchers and their publics that are “pluralist, reflexive, and promote mutual learning” (Rabinow & Bennet 2012, Fitzgerald 2014, Pauwels 2013, 225). The assemblage of the recordings I’ve collected through my research is being turned into an interactive documentary that embraces heterogenous and multi-voiced communication about this emerging technoscience in order to critique the reign of cohesive, specifically-angled narratives in science communication that connect to real people’s lived experiences.

Author: Juliana Botelho, Pegasus Scientificus, Brazil

Co-authors: Adlane Vilas-Boas, Jennifer Metcalfe, Alicianne Gonçalves, Hauke Riesch, Jonathan Mendel

Since their first boom about ten years ago, science blogs were believed to offer new possibilities of writing about scientific issues for a lay audience. Seen either as open, democratic forum or a new mode of scientific writing and reading – more fluid, conversational, trustworthy and editorially independent in character – science blogs raised many expectations since their emergence.

Yet, many scholars argue that some of these expectations were rarely, if ever, met. And even if most scholarly reviews account for a diversity of science blogging initiatives, a number of them have come to the conclusion that these platforms have left behind the golden days.

In this panel participants are invited to question the survival of blogs, by bringing forth the following contributions:

  1. “Dialogues with science: what makes a blog last?”, by Juliana Botelho and Adlane Vilas-Boas. This work is an attempt to reflect on the challenges of both science blogging and blog evaluation, by examining a particular case study – a Brazilian blog called “Diálogos c/ Ciência”.
  2. “Climate change on the internet soapbox: Preaching to the converted”, by Jenni Metcalfe. This presentation will compare the comments from two prominent climate blogs in Australia: one from a climate sceptic and one from a supporter of anthropogenic-climate change.
  3. “A political and scientific issue: discourses about racial diversity in science blogs”, by Alicianne Gonçalves. This communication analyses the discourses employed on two Darwinist Brazilian blogs: “Darwin e Deus” and “Haeckeliano”.
  4. “Science communication and the internets: tricksters, trolls and rhizomes”, by Hauke Riesch and Jonathan Mendel. Large-scale online science communication projects often construct very ordered, controlled spaces for discussion. However, we draw on Deleuze and Guattari’s work to argue that this is rather dull compared to the pleasures of more rhizomatic, less centralised approaches to public engagement.

Author: Hans Peter Peters, Research Center Juelich, Germany

Two ideal types of public communication of scientific knowledge can be distinguished: popularization of research, triggered by a scientific publication or other event within science, and provision of scientific expertise, triggered by public demand to understand a social problem such as climate change and find a solution. The corresponding roles of scientists as public communicators are “science popularizer” and “scientific expert”. The paper explores whether and how the relationship of scientists and journalists differs if scientists are interviewed by journalists as popularizers or experts.

Several surveys of scientists included a question on the thematic focus of the most recent interview with a journalist – actual research or expertise – as well as questions on the interaction and its assessment by the scientist. The analysis uses a German survey of 1,509 researchers from 16 academic disciplines covering hard sciences, social sciences and humanities. To assess whether the patterns found are specific for Germany or more universal, the German results are compared with results from other countries.

Interviews about actual research are more often initiated by the scientist or the public relations department than interviews focusing on expertise. Specialized science journalists are more involved in the popularization of research than in the communication of expertise. Researchers get more positive feedback by peers and by the management of their university or research institution for popularizing media stories than for being mentioned as experts in the media. Furthermore, they themselves rate media accounts of their research more often as professionally “useful” than media stories in which they are quoted as experts.

The paper concludes that popularization of research is stronger supported by communication activities initiated by science than the communication of expertise which depends more heavily on journalists’ initiatives. A possible decline of journalism may thus particularly affect the public availability of scientific expertise.

Author: Marie Boran

This paper provides a state-of-the-art on participatory journalism practices within mainstream science journalism. It explores the concept of Participatory Science Journalism as a well-defined format that can contribute to the future of science journalism and public engagement with science. Ubiquitous internet access, the advent of social media and widespread use of smartphones have all lead to the development of a new type of journalism: participatory journalism. The modern audience experience goes beyond consumption and routinely involves contributing to the news story through User Generated Content (UGC) from eyewitness videos to reader comments. We explore the current and future development of what we refer to as Participatory Science Journalism, a unique space with far reaching possibilities for meaningful public engagement with science. If we look at the story and accompanying commentary as a set, the science journalist is no longer in a position of authority to deliver a finished product (Secko et. al, 2011). In an online environment, the traditional roles of the science journalist have changed, leading to new roles and practices (Fahy and Nisbet, 2011). Our pilot study of semi-structured interviews with working science journalists (who write for the online platform of a print media company) explores Participatory Science Journalism in terms of journalists’ attitudes towards and perceived value of an interactive audience as well as their thoughts on best practice for implementation of this format. We explore current experimental implementations of Participatory Science Journalism such as OpenSciLogs’ crowd-funded exercise in open, participatory science journalism where the reader is invited to contribute directly to the story through an online, editable document using Google Docs.

Author: Marie Boran

In the past decade, the science journalist’s relationship with her audience has changed remarkably. In order to voice an opinion, the reader doesn’t have to rely on a Letter to the Editor. Reader comments offer a public space for “the people formerly known as the audience” to engage with the author, the story and fellow readers. This rich body of public discourse on scientific issues and topics can be used by science communicators to understand how the public engage with science journalism. This panel will discuss their research on this area. Dominique Brossard and co-authors designed an experiment to test whether uncivil comments below a blogpost on nanotechnology had any effect on the reader’s risk perception of this emerging technology. It was found that uncivil comments had a polarising effect on readers and in some cases changed their interpretation of the story itself. Esther Laslo (and co-author Ayelet Baram Tsabari) examined reader comments below news stories on animal experimentation and climate change with the finding that expressions of scientific literacy do not necessarily go hand-in-hand with the scientific consensus: while more expressions of scientific literacy were found in comments supporting animal experimentation, more expressions of literacy were found in comments opposing the scientific consensus on climate change (the skeptical position). Marie Boran will moderate this panel, asking panelists to reflect on the usefulness of reader comments as a barometer for public engagement with science, and whether trolling and other uncivil interactions make it acceptable to shut down the comments section, as Popular Science chose to do in 2013.

Author: Angela Bonilla

“A Ciencia Cierta” is a public participation programme of Colombia’s Administrative Department of Science, Technology and Innovation, COLCIENCIAS, that recognizes the best experiences developed by the communities in themes of science, technology and innovation, that solve a solution to a specific problem and that can be communicated, shared and replicated by other Colombians for the benefit of their social groups, though a social knowledge appropriation process.

This contest was designed in seven phases for the citizens to recognize the importance of CTel as a tool for the development of their territories through a solution to their regional and sectorial issues. Its methodology promotes collective participation, interaction and collaboration, to understand and use CTel, and through communication and social knowledge appropriation generate innovations that empower communities, consolidating networks between local groups, organizations and individuals interested in knowledge development and production around social appropriation of science, technology and innovation.

2015´s version of this contest deals with the topic of ” Agricultural production for Food Safety”, in which community-based organizations of the whole country participate nominating their experiences in one of the three established thematic areas: water and soil management, harvesting management and agriculture and livestock production systems, post-harvest and transformation (value added). The best 20 experiences chosen by Colombians through national public vote will receive a prize of 50 million pesos with technical and scientific assistance from Colciencias to strengthen them.

The first version of this contest took place between 2013 and 2014 with great technical and institutional experiences. The result of the contest was of great impact, even more when it was the first time that we faced the Colombian population in a direct way.

In that opportunity we worked the subject of Water as a Vital Resource, in which 141 experiences were enrolled from all over the country. 52 of them met the requirements and passed to be voted by more than 15 thousand Colombians, which led us to recognize and reward the best 10 experiences. These received between 20 and 80 million pesos to finance and strengthen technical support and assistance by the region’s researchers, who supported their neighbouring communities to define strengths and improvements. In its first version, “A Ciencia Cierta”, directly contributed to benefit 16 thousand Colombian people who could finally have access to drinking water for their use.

Author: Anne Land-Zandstra, Leiden University, Netherlands

Co-author: Liesbeth de Bakker

In informal science education, as in any field, linking research to practice is a challenging endeavor. On the one hand, site-based evaluation reports often don’t make it to the peer-reviewed journals, while on the other hand, many practitioners find it difficult to incorporate peer-reviewed research findings in their everyday practice.

One way to bridge this gap between research and practice may be the joint supervision of student research and/or development projects by practitioners and university supervisors. Student projects are often site-based and evolve from practitioner questions. At the same time, students’ academic training ensures the theoretical background of their projects. In this way, students’ site-based research and development resembles action research projects by pre-service teachers in the formal education system. Such educational action research projects comprise any systematic inquiry conducted in the teaching and learning environment and encourage reflective practice of teachers. Teachers find action research findings relevant, persuasive and accessible, which contrasts many of the barriers they encounter with educational research in general.

The goal of the current study is to investigate benefits and barriers of student research and development in informal science environments for practitioners as well as students. Online questionnaires will be distributed in the fall of 2015 among Dutch informal science practitioners and students who have conducted research and development at those institutions. A mix of open and closed questions will address their experiences, learning impacts, benefits and barriers. Data will be analyzed quantitatively as well as qualitatively. Based on the outcomes of this study (a.o. the perceived benefits by practitioners and students), suggestions will be given on how to benefit most from student research and development in informal science environments so that the exchange between theory and practice may be facilitated and improved.

Author: Evgeniya Boklage, Free University of Berlin, Germany

Co-authors: Markus Lehmkuhl, Anne Beier

Present paper is the study of representation of scientific uncertainty in the coverage of antibiotic resistance in the German quality press over period of twenty years. The problem of antibiotic resistance is simultaneously a serious public health concern and a complex scientific matter. The exact mechanisms, which lead to its rise, are not fully understood and there is still a considerable degree of scientific uncertainty involved. While the research community considers permanent presence of uncertainty about scientific findings intrinsic, this can create considerable difficulties for journalists reporting on scientific issues. Often, media workers are criticized for inadequate representation of uncertainty of scientific claims, which appear as more certain than they really are.

Using content analysis we studied 594 articles on the subject of antibiotic resistance, which appeared in six quality German newspapers between 1993 and 2013. The main focus of our research was on how journalists communicate the uncertainty associated with antimicrobial resistance, its development, causes, and possible consequences. We evaluated the precision of communicated statistical and factual information, analysed quoted sources and the statements they made as well as examined the linguistic constructions of uncertainty. In the next step we applied thematic analysis of scientific literature using Web of Science to gain an overview of the state of research on the subject of antibiotic resistance. Lastly, we measured the statements about the risks of antibiotic resistance which appeared in the press against the scientific claims in research literature.

Our study has found that the complexity of the issue of antibiotic resistance and associated with it uncertainty are not fully grasped by journalists. Similarly, the ways in which journalists and scientists deal with statistical and factual information differ. Journalists often rely on absolute numbers as well as dubious statistical constructs to represent the risk of antibiotic resistance.

Author: Alessandra Bizerra

The conservation education research is a field dedicated to study ethical reflections and human attitudes directed towards respect to nature, especially the establishment of conservation actions based on educational interactions. Zoos in general are inserted into this perspective, once they are assumed as institutions devoted to wildlife conservation. However, conservation discourse presented by these cultural spaces is not always present in their exhibitions. Thus, in this investigation, we aimed to understand how conservation is addressed in a spanish Zoo, considering three different views: Environmental Movements; Conservation Philosophy; and Environmental Ethic. Using Case Study method, we developed a documental analysis (institutional documents accessible website and historical book), content analysis of information signs texts and interviews with conservation researchers. The analyses are being carried out based on the theoretical framework of Didactic/museographic Transposition, searching for establishment of a reference knowledge. This reference knowledge is enabling to create analytical categories which guide the categorization of Zoo’s speech on conservation education. Preliminary results show that conservation discourse ranges from anthropocentric to not anthropocentric aspects. Besides, we perceived that man’s position regarding nature is predominantly focused on developmental aspects and technical and scientific elements, following conceptual line of major global events sponsored by international agencies.

Author: Raquel Nery Lima Bezerra

This paper aims to discuss some aspects of the relationship between science and the basic education in Brazil. We are considering the experience that started with an interactive science fair organized by the GeoLogar – Earth Sciences for Society Project, in the exposition “The Secrets of Meteorites: a record of the Solar System evolution”, occurred in a shopping center. The meteoritic thematic allowed to evaluate the possibilities of learning experiences in non-formal environments for elementary level students from Salvador City, Bahia. The data were obtained through the analyzing of letters wrote by the students from 8 to 18 years, regarding the Meteorites Fair experience. These letters were examined by the perspective of scientific literacy and museum pedagogy. First, we were interested in exploring the possibilities of language development during the exposure to natural sciences in interdisciplinary contexts. Surprisingly, the data showed the inverse way, that means, the low levels of reading and writing abilities of some Bahia’s students also interfere in their possibilities to appreciate Science, that is especially true for the students of the public board of education. In an effort to reverse this, the Meteorites Exposition currently has a permanent room at the Bahia’s Geologic Museum. The mix of meteorites and interactive technology showed to be effective to attract the young public and resulted in a increased rate of visitors for the museum. The research now aims to integrate the Bahia’s science museums to the public board of education in the Province to better use the educational potential of informal environments, as museums. We hope to better explore these resources, allowing the social integration of public school students, improving their learning abilities and interest for sciences, while also training graduate students that act as science tutors and prospecting new talents for Geosciences.

Author: Jesse Bering, University of Otago, New Zealand

Co-authors: Fabien Medvecky, Emma Curtin

Science communication is a deeply social enterprise. Scientific arguments, theories and data are not presented in a vacuum, but are delivered to the public by particular individuals with unique characteristics. Some of these characteristics involve ostensibly unrelated (im)moral or (un)ethical past actions. In theory, this information should not influence the audience’s evaluation of the veracity of the individual’s scientific claims. For example, knowledge that a scientist has engaged in a sexual indiscretion should not affect our assessment of his or her claims in an unrelated field (e.g. physics). In this paper, we present results from a series of controlled experiments demonstrating that this is not the case. All participants read about a debated scientific theory written by an expert in his field. In the main experiment, they were randomly assigned to one of three conditions: (1) morally good expert; (2) morally bad expert; (3) morally neutral expert (control condition). We hypothesized that academic training and experience should counteract these types of biases, and therefore tested both undergraduate students and professional scientists. Using both surveys and behavioral measures, we analysed the participants’ judgement of the expert and his claims. We found that the audience’s pre-existing knowledge of this person’s (im)moral reputation significantly influenced their judgement of his work. Although this pattern of a distorted perception of the arguments was more pronounced among the undergraduate students, the trend was similar for the professional scientists. In a follow-up experiment, we refined the nature of the transgression to examine whether academic misdeeds (e.g., data fabrication) fared differently to moral offenses in the audience’s scientific evaluations. We will discuss the implications of our ongoing research in this area for science communication. In particular, we ask how much-and what kind-of an expert’s biographical detail should be communicated?

Author: Silvia Benvenuti

We describe the work and business plan of Unicam Science Outreach, a project leaded by an interdisciplinary team of researchers, whose aim is to design and develop effective communication strategies, targeted to the background and needs of the audience: from policy makers to potential industrial partners, from youth and school teachers to the general public.

Author: Antoni Bennà ssar-Roig, Universitat Illes Balears, Spain

Co-authors: María-Antonia Manassero-Mas, Àngel Vázquez-Alonso

The paper presents the case of a popular science magazine (Naturalment) that was monthly elaborated by the Biology freshman students at the University of the Balearic Islands (Spain) with the guidance of a team of teachers of the Biology, Chemistry, Physics and Psychology Departments. The focus of the magazine project was the development of the students’ communication skills at the beginning of their higher education scientific studies.

Each number of the magazine displayed the following contents on a monographic scientific issue: An article of popularization on a scientific issue, an interview with a researcher in the same field of knowledge, an annotated list of websites linked to the issue, and some commentaries on the journals Nature, Science, Scientific American and The Scientist. The number was completed with notes on books, movies or any other materials selected by the students. Some edition aspects, such as the magazine layout, the use of languages, the choice of images, the correct use of citations, the respect for intellectual property and attention to epistemological, social and institutional aspects of science were particularly cared.

The students worked in small groups along 2013 to publish the online magazine in the two official languages (Spanish and Catalan) at The students received specific training for the preparation of the magazine contents in reviewing popular journals and publications, using appropriately the language, presenting contents in two languages, using scientific databases, intellectual property, using popular edition programs and dissemination of the magazine in the web.

This activity about popularization and dissemination of science allows the students getting the following benefits: learning scientific knowledge about the issues they elaborated on, improving their scientific communication skills, understanding many features of the nature of science and an especial contact with the science-technology-society relationships.

Author: Sema Becerikli, Ankara University, Turkey

Co-author: Ciler Dursun

The purpose of this paper is to try to understand science technology and innovation journalism practices in Turkey. Paper is based on the survey and deeply interview studies. Studies were conducted with 75 reporters attended to the three workshops in Ankara, İstanbul and İzmir.

The survey basically consists of two main parts. The first part consists of the participants’ socio-demographic characteristics (age, sex, education level, previous profession, seniority) in order to analyse the information was compiled. Science, technology and innovation journalism practices of production processes and structure of news reporters and institutions to understand their attitude towards this
issue has been addressed with 15 questions in the second part. In-depth interviews were carried out in this section. The questionnaire was evaluated in SPSS 16. The interview data were interpreted to be decoded.

The survey data are analysed, a field of science, technology and innovation journalism is not yet specialized and we can say that journalists have several difficulties in the process of making news.

Author: Martin Bauer, LSE, United Kingdom

Co-author: Ahmet Suerdem (Bilgi University); Rajesh Shukla (Delhi); Li Yuh-Yuh Luke (Taiwan)

This panel addresses trends in and evaluating the effects of public communication of S&T in society.

National surveys of attitudes have been conducted since the 1970s; this effort is a global one, but with little comparisons beyond headline figures. Longitudinal evidence is now available which deserves the attention of PCST scholars and practitioners. This panel will address three questions arising from such comparisons of attitudes:

  1. Can we assume a universally stable structure of attitudes to science? Probably not. Ahmet Suerdem (Istanbul) and Rajesh Shukla (Delhi) will examine this question over 6-waves of Eurobarometer surveys since 1989 across 32 European countries, and three nationwide Indian surveys (2005, 2008 and 2015) and suggest that we need to consider different structures of attitudes for different contexts (1D, 2D or 3D).
  2. Considering longitudinal evidence in any one context, what are the main shifts? Yuh-Yuh Li (Kaoshiung) will examine changes in the context of Taiwan since the beginning of the new millennium, when the Taiwan attitude series started. The Taiwanese surveys are comparable to Eurobarometer, but in addition explore interesting issues that are locally specific to Taiwan.
  3. In the long-run, generational cohorts influence on how people relate to science: what is the evidence? Having longitudinal measures across 12 EU countries in Eurobarometer, 1989-2012, allows to create the cohort variable in contrast to biological age. Martin W Bauer (LSE) will examine the generation question of science attitudes in EU12 states and compare the evidence as to a consistent cohort
    effect controlling for period and level of education. In some countries the intensive engagement with science culture seem to be vested in the post-war and Baby boom generation, in other countries, this orientation is the privilege of the youngest generations.

The panel will address these questions also within a view of an EAST-WEST perspective.