Author: Bernhard Goodwin, LMU München, Germany

The present paper is about science communication from scientists’ perspective on an individual level. It analyzes perceptions, motives and the environment of scientists and their communicational behavior. The study focuses on forest scientists as an example for scientists in general. In-depth interviews of different stakeholders of forest science (N=59) and a survey among German forest scientists (N=205, turnout 33.3 %) were used to collect data. This data is used to qualify and quantify perceptions, motives and relevant parts of the scientists’ environments. Communicational styles are classified and their correlations to the other described aspects are analyzed. The data shows that the scientists don’t have a negative attitude towards science communication but deem it not very important among the different tasks they have to do. They have a heterogeneous image of media effects on their fellow scientists. For this reason they can’t predict how own public appearances influence their reputation. They perceive media and journalists also heterogeneous – yet in the majority positive. Scientists (especially if they are of higher status) perceive science communication as part of their role, though they interpret it in a reactive communicational style. Scientists from disciplines which are more application-oriented regard science communication as more important. The results lead to the following recommendations for those taking part in the process of science communication:

  • Science journalists should keep in mind that there is a minority of experts on a certain topic in the audience who form their opinion about their competence based on the quality of their reporting.
  • Specific positively evaluated experiences of a contact with a science journalist help to form a positive opinion. Science communicators should emphasize the positive outcome of science reporting – especially the distribution of knowledge, while countering a pessimistic view on the media with positive experiences and their positive outcomes for individual researchers.
  • Additionally norms which are related to specific positive results of science communication should be reinforced in science education and through public visibility of role models.
  • Improve scientist’s perception, that public communication is part of their job.
  • While improving on external motivation to do science communication it is important not to destroy intrinsic motivation. Use scientist’s communications with practitioners to improve science communication in general.

Author: Mircea Sava, University of Bucharest, Romania

Online media provides science communication with valuable tools which enrich the complex transmedial web of popular science, not only with the new social networks for public engagement, but also with updated, mixed forms of the traditional ways of communicating science. Public lectures held by scientists for non-specialists are one kind of such traditional endeavours which have nowadays been modelled by digital media. This paper aims to analyse how classical public lectures have been transformed in online media, by referring to some specific TED talks (Technology Entertainment Design) given by or starred by physicists Stephen Hawking and Brian Greene: Questioning the Universe, Making Sense of String Theory, Is Our Universe the Only Universe and Stephen Hawking’s Zero G Flight. The performative events of traditional conferences intended for the general audience are associated with elements of show and entertainment in a unique way in these TED talks. This metamorphosis is possible due to a negotiation process through which scientists accept to mix scientific information with entertainment, often with the help of professional science communicators, in order to reach a greater audience and to engage the public with science. From their research interests and their popular physics books, the two scientists preserve in their TED talks only the themes that are the closest to the public’s daily concerns or the subjects which retain elements of an out of the ordinary nature. The combination of different media is an omnipresent element of these talks, making them an evocative illustration of the convergence specific to online media. The digital public lectures, exemplified by the TED talks of
scientists Stephen Hawking and Brian Greene, are a new form of nodal points in the transmedial web of popular science, which offer a meaningful way to bring the public closer to the otherwise abstract science of physics.

Author: Achintya Rao, University of the West of England, Bristol / CERN, Switzerland

This paper will present early results from research into the attitudes of the particle-physics community towards science communication (specifically, towards “public engagement” or “outreach”). The project explores this community’s motivations for, and barriers to, participating in science-communication activities, and how the attitudes, motivations and barriers vary across age, nationality, gender and academic position.

Much research into the attitudes of scientists towards public engagement has involved fields of research with either a direct or an immediate impact to human life and society (e.g. climate change, genetically modified organisms, nuclear power), but the literature is lacking when it comes to fields that are less accessible or “every-day” to a lay public, such as particle physics.

To represent the population of particle-physics researchers, the sample chosen is the CMS Collaboration, which discovered the Higgs boson in 2012 at the Large Hadron Collider located at CERN, the European laboratory for particle physics. Named after the Compact Muon Solenoid particle detector, the collaboration counts among its members over 4000 scientists and engineers from nearly 200 institutes representing more than 40 countries. The international but close-knit nature of the collaboration makes CMS a unique source of rich, novel data into cross-national and cross-cultural attitudes towards science communication.

The paper will focus on analysis of quantitative data, which were collected via an in-depth online survey distributed to the entire CMS Collaboration in early 2015. Over the four-month data-collection period, 374 members of the collaboration responded to the survey. Analysis of these data will address the conference theme “Evaluating public communication of science and technology”.

The project is part of the author’s research towards a PhD in Science Communication.

Author: Lloyd Davis, Centre for Science Communication, New Zealand

Universities engage in outreach activities about science for a variety of reasons, including enhancing their reputation, recruitment and the personal satisfaction of those involved. Such activities are typically portrayed as a form of science communication whereby the public is informed about science. Outreach activities may be classified according to their costs, their reach (i.e. the audience size) and their persistence (i.e. the duration of the activity and how long it is available to the public). When costs of many activities traditionally favoured by universities as outreach for science are weighed against their reach and persistence, they prove not to be the most effective forms of outreach in terms of the value they provide. Encouraging and facilitating staff (and, where appropriate, students) to engage in interviews about science with the media as well as to popularise science – through writing books and articles for the popular press and, where possible, being involved in documentaries about science – are amongst the most effective means by which universities can communicate science to the public. Enhancing such practices will require universities to recognise and reward staff for popularising science, rather than rewarding only publications and citations in scientific journals. Online outreach activities are also an area of great potential when it comes to persistence and the size of the audience. When using more traditional forms of outreach – such as public talks, café scientifiques and U3A – their effectiveness may be enhanced if they occur regularly or are packaged as a group of activities in a way that the public can subscribe to them. Finally, there may be social reasons favouring outreach activities by universities that go beyond a simple cost-benefit analysis, such as engaging indigenous peoples in science.

Author: Carmelo Polino, Centro Redes, Argentina

Co-authors: Myriam García Rodríguez

The importance of biotechnology in the economy and society is growing an its social effects more visible. Argentina has a strong scientific and technological tradition in biotechnology as well as agro-biotechnology quickly allowed the development of a new economic agricultural paradigm. The country is for example one of the major producers of transgenic soybean in the world. However, there is little actualized empirical evidence about the public acceptance of biotechnology in general, and on genetically modified organisms in particular. This presentation focuses on the structure of public attitudes regarding different applications of food biotechnology from a recent nationally representative survey of the urban adult population. We evaluate news sources and trust in different social agents. We also examine the perceived benefits and risks of biotechnology applied to food and study the composition of attitudes with respect to the development of specific biotechnological applications used in vegetables and animals. We analyse eventual public attitudes on buying genetically modified food as well. Through multivariate models we segment the population into groups of acceptance-rejection and study the effect of socio-demographic variables as predictors of these attitudes.

Author: Ciler Dursun, Ankara University Faculty of Communication, Turkey

Reading practices of readers and their understandings of newspaper is a very important part of science journalism studies in general. This study presents first comprehensive analysis on reading habits and signification practices of Turkish readers in Turkey. This research is funded by Turkish Scientific and Technological Research Council in Turkey between 2011-2013. Research approach is based on social constructivist perspective and uses audience reception analysis. Having a social constructivist approach, it is assumed that producing a meaning of a text is a process in which both social reality and identity of people are produced. Therefore we can both infer some certain ways of reality production of individuals and can understand experiences of social agents and their definitions of situations in social process. Focus group analysis is the technique that is used for gathering interpretations of the Turkish readers on science news. Newspaper readers are categorised according to their age, wage and education and 6 different and gender balanced groups were asked on structured questions about three different kinds of news: organ transplantation, physics (specifically CERN experiment) and computer innovation. Some questions were also asked written to get their free associations on the news. Study shows us that there are some differences as well as similarities of their reading preferences and habits on STI news. Differences result mostly from the education and age differences. According to
the theme of the news, organ transplantation news and medical news are most understandable for all readers in terms of their presupposed affects on readers daily life. Detailed findings of the audience research will be displayed.

Author: Kanta Dihal, University of Oxford, United Kingdom

If communicating the concepts of quantum physics to adults proves a struggle, how could a children’s book approach the topic? Children’s popularizations of science are known for the inclusion of practical, tangible experiments which children can perform themselves, an approach that dramatically increases the affective bond with the child. In works on quantum physics, however, it becomes much more difficult to create experiments that can be performed by children, with safe tools that can be found at home. In children’s books that cover quantum physics, such experiments are to a large extent abandoned in favour of a science fiction-like or fantastical story that excludes the reader as an active agent: examples are Lucy and Stephen Hawking’s George series (2009-2016), Russell Stannard’s Uncle Albert and the Quantum Quest (2005), and Robert Gilmore’s Alice in Quantumland (1995). The fictional and the fantastical are used extendedly in all of these works, to the point where science and fiction are no longer distinguishable, turning the work into a ‘scientific fantasy’.

Too often, studies of literature and science (Sleigh, Clarke and Rossini, Willis) or of science fiction (Latham, Bould et al, Garnett and Ellis, Roberts) omit works for children. This paper, which is part of the author’s doctoral research project (2014-2017), will address this gap, looking at the communication of quantum physics to children via two genres, science fiction and popularization, and the ways in which a crossover between the two can be made in order to communicate the concepts from modern physics. Where Melanie Keene in Science in Wonderland (2015) discussed the use of fantasy elements in science writing for children to show that science was stranger and more amazing than fiction, I will show to what extent this discourse continued to be used in the twentieth and twenty-first century.

Author: Ana Mena, Instituto Gulbenkian de Ciência, Portugal

Co-authors: Alexandra Paio, Luís Rocha, Manuel Marques-Pita, Maria de Assis

Science and Art projects can address difficult scientific messages, resulting in enriching experiences to the visitors. But how easy is it to create a multidisciplinary project with a strong scientific message? The interactive installation “Musical Morphogenesis” is a multidisciplinary project based on 6 main disciplines: complex systems, computational biology, music, architecture, robotics, and science communication. The implementation of all components of the installation had to take into consideration the specificities of each discipline, turning this into an extremely challenging project.

The main objective of “Musical Morphogenesis” was to take visitors in a sensorial journey to explore the dynamic interactions of genes and proteins during the development of an organ. Such biological processes are highly complex, with the same set of genes controlling the morphology of different organs depending on when they are activated. Taking advantage of a mathematical model of the gene-regulatory network responsible for the development of Arabidopsis thaliana flowers, the interdisciplinary team joined hands to create an installation whereby users can explore and play with the development of flowers at a human scale. The installation is composed of a robotic flower, whose kinetics reflects the temporal progression of the genetic network as it controls flower development, as well as of an interface to interact with the installation. Visitors can turn on or off one or more genes, steering the network towards the formation of different mutant organs. Finally, to facilitate the comprehension of the network, each gene has specific sound.

During the first public exhibition, the installation was highly appreciated as a piece of art and entertainment, but the scientific message was perhaps not conveyed as clearly as desirable. Based on this feedback, the installation has been remodeled. In this presentation, I will reflect on the challenges that were raised and solutions found to better convey the message.

Author: Constantinos Morfakis, National and Kapodistrian University of Athens, Greece

Co-authors: Yannis Hatzikiriakos

The opera, as an undoubtedly a large-scale artistic and cultural event, which portrays social behaviour patterns and often criticizes a number of socio-political issues. Furthermore, as a popular spectacle nowadays through digital technology (online streaming and live in HD), the lyric art and great opera productions can reach the most remote corner of the planet.

In this paper, we consider issues about the public image of scientist in the opera of contemporary American composer John Adams, in libretto of Peter Sellars, called Doctor Atomic (2005). The opera focuses on the great stress and anxiety experienced by those at Los Alamos while the test of the first atomic bomb (the “Trinity” test) was being prepared. Doctor Atomic concerns the final hours leading up to the first atomic bomb explosion at the Alamagordo test site in New Mexico in July of 1945. The focal characters are the physicist and Manhattan Project director, Dr. J. Robert Oppenheimer; his wife Kitty; Edward Teller; and General Leslie Groves, the US Army commander of the project.

More specific, we shall attempt to examine the following issues in the opera Doctor Atomic and in connection to recent developments in STS scholarship and Science Communication. First, we are interested in the shaping of the public image of a famous scientist in a modern opera which is available online. Second, we pay special attention to the directing of opera and how this contributes in the shaping of a public imaginary about the nuclear bomb and its creators. Finally, we are focusing on the official website of the opera and in which way the informative content that provides for the first atomic bomb constructs a public image for this. We believe that Doctor Atomic provides us with interesting insights on contemporary questions regarding public communication of science and technology

Author: Gustav Bohlin, Linköping University, Sweden

Co-authors: Andreas Göransson, Gunnar Höst, Lena Tibell

Evolution is at the very core of biology, with broad ranging implications. These include societal issues such as microbial resistance to antibiotics and organisms’ adaptations to climate change. Previous research suggests that evolutionary knowledge may aid citizens in making informed decisions. For example, causes for antibiotic resistance, as well as recommended countermeasures, can be derived and justified through the application of evolutionary reasoning. Therefore, citizens’ knowledge of evolution forms a crucial part of scientific literacy as well as public understanding of science. Unfortunately, public understanding of evolutionary mechanisms, such as those underlying antibiotic resistance, is rudimental and associated with many misconceptions. The aim of the present study was to explore how the context of antibiotic resistance can be used to help students and members of the public to understand and apply evolutionary theory. We have developed a digital environment where one can interact with a series of animations that illustrate how antibiotic resistance arises through evolutionary mechanisms. Methodologically, we followed a qualitative approach using focus groups and observations. The main data used for analysis consist of transcripts from discussions and follow-up interviews as well as written responses to both closed and open items. The final analysis will be completed during spring, but preliminary results show that the context of antibiotic resistance facilitates volunteers’ ability to use evolutionary reasoning in several ways. These include compressing spatial and temporal scales, clarifying the role of random factors, as well as providing incentives for learning a subject that is sometimes perceived as being of little importance for contemporary societal issues. Apart from the study results, we will share useful experiences from design choices in animation-based science communication. We see implications in many PCST-related areas where informal learning is considered. These include web-based campaigns, healthcare events and science center exhibits.

Author: Ildeu Moreira, PCST, Brazil

The use of social networks for PCST activities has grown considerably in the last years. Little is known about the usage profile of these tools, and major challenges are to expand their scope, to increase the involvement of the participants and how to measure their impacts. In this paper we present an analysis of the Facebook pages used for two major events in Brazil. Rio+20, the United Nations Conference on Sustainable Development took place in Rio de Janeiro, in June 2012, twenty years after the landmark 1992 Earth Summit in Rio. Many PCST activities were organized throughout the week of the event in Rio. A large warehouse in the port was used for these activities, which encompassed exhibitions, science fairs, debates, etc. They reached an estimated audience of 100,000 people, of which the majority was made up of children and young people. A Facebook page was used to report on the event and present topics related to science and environmental issues. A second experience occurred with the FB page of the International Year of Light in 2015 in Brazil. In this case, with about 3,000 participants, the page has had a growing impact with a large number of threads being tanned and shared. In this communication we analyze the profile of the participants of this community and their involvement with the FB page. Emphasis will be given to posts related to: (i) general information on events, competitions, etc; (ii) history of science topics on light; (iii) new researches about light and its applications; (iv) history of
S&T in Brazil. On each of these themes we will analyze the content posted, the degree of involvement of the participants, and comments and questions made by them.

Author: Daniela Orr, Technion Institute of Technology, Israel

Co-author: Ayelet Baram-Tsabari

The ways in which the two prominent science communication models – the deficit Model and the dialogical/engagement with science model – can contribute to an understanding of the sociological
aspects of decision-making in social media context have rarely been studied so far. According to the first model, the public lacks sufficient information. According to the second, the public brings many different arguments to the decision-making process, out of which only few are scientific. This paper quantitatively examines how each of these models can contribute to an understanding of debates on Polio vaccination, carried out in a Facebook group called ‘Parents talk about the Polio vaccination’. A content analysis of about 1800 items sampled from discussions in the group authored by 321 commentators, out of which 22 were M.D.’s, Reveals that the largest share of items (60%) addressed scientific or medical content. However even a greater majority of items (89%) did not present any evidence at all to support their arguments. While most items did not employ any evidence, a significant connection has been found between the position held toward Polio vaccination and the use of evidence. The topic of the discussion was not significantly associated with the use of evidence.

The findings raise important questions regarding the relevance of both models in to the debates on Polio vaccination on Facebook. The clear presence of scientific topics leads us to the conclusion that the commentators are interested or preoccupied with scientific topics. On the other hand, our findings do emphasize the epistemological breadth of public decision-making regarding vaccinations when taken in a social media environment.

We hence propose an original conceptualization to account for scientific debates in social media contexts: the broad justification, according to which, scientific character of debates does not necessarily go hand in hand with empirical justification.

Author: Ben Creagh, CSIRO, Australia

As one of the Australia’s most trusted organisations (Bruce & Critchley, 2013) the Commonwealth Scientific Industrial Research Organisation (CSIRO) has a long history providing research and synthesising complex technical information to better understand pressing and often highly contentious issues confronting policy makers.

This presentation will articulate the communication tools, tactics and principles necessary for scientists to improve how they actively inform public policy with impartiality and independence, and in doing so increase the potency of science as a shaper of policy.

It will draw on three case studies: (1) understanding the social, environmental and economic impacts of Australia’s unconventional gas industry; (2) communicating scientific observations and data underpinning climate science (State of the Climate, 2014); and (3) helping chart the economic, social and environmental implications of expanding development in Northern Australia. It will present a ‘toolbox’ of the consistent and critical elements of effective communication of complex and technical scientific information and will canvass science marketing, stakeholder engagement, issues management, and contemporary media engagement practices.

Despite the diversity of issues and the unique public policy and political circumstances that define them, the communication environment is largely characterised by a set of consistent traits. These include issues where scientific knowledge is contested or incomplete; presents a difficult and complex policy challenge; involves a spectrum of often competing interests and values; and is of high media, political and public interest.

Central to the success of this approach has been adherence to the honest broker role as articulated by Roger Pielke (2007) as a guiding principle for all communication and engagement activities irrespective of the issue. This presentation will also demonstrate how the right communication and engagement approach can allow scientific organisations to maintain and grow the trust of the public, media, policy-makers, politicians and the science community.

Bruce, G. & Critchley, C. (2013). The Swinburne National Technology and Society Monitor. 2013 Monitor. Retrieved from
Bureau of Meteorology, Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organisation (2014). State of the Climate 2014. Retrieved from
Pielke, R. (2007). The Honest Broker: Making Sense of Science in Policy and Politics. Cambridge, UK: Cambridge University Press

Author: Tânia Costa, Universidade Federal de Minas Gerais, Brazil

Co-author: Lara Mucci Poenaru

This paper is a result of a didactic sequence placed in a science museum, about the Antarctic continent. It aimed to recreate, from students previous conceptions, physical conditions, weather and animals that live there, considering the human presence in the continent. The sequence was developed in Itinerant Museum Ponto UFMG for over six months, with students between 6 and 7 years old. In the hopes of making evident how children build their own conceptions about the Antarctic, we have focused our analysis in written activities and drawings; audiovisual recordings and fieldwork notebook registers. The data was analyzed according to Vigotsky’s Imaginative Play Theory (2004) and Piaget’s Semiotic Function (1973). It was noticed that, first, the students’ conceptions were pervaded by fantastic elements related to imagination and fantasy, expressed as drawings of penguins riding a bicycle, or polar bears with crab claws. It was also found that some visual elements and previous experiences from the students with movie histories (such as: “Ice Age” and “Happy Feet”) merged. When we compare the children’s drawings made in the first couple of months and those made during the last month, it was evident the transition process from fantasy to reality. This process happened after the students were presented with scientific documentaries about the polar continent, travelling and literature books and group discussions. From the semiotic analysis of the last drawings it was noticed new elements, such as a military base, ships and human constructions. Therefore, it was possible to conclude that the children creative repertory was zoomed. The results of this research points out the importance of fantasy and imagination in the process of learning in the early childhood, and a start point to reframe the students’ misconceptions and to reinforce the relevance of drawing as an interpretative tool for the children’s creative process.

Author: Carina Cortassa

Nowadays, the need to promote scientific culture and the public engagement with science and technology appears to be an undeniable issue in the policy-makers agendas. As several studies focused in different contexts show, governments have assumed that stimulating practices of public communication and appropriation of science is a relevant task that makes part and parcel of their S&T policies.

Instead of an additional concern of marginal interest and limited resources, the urgency to narrow the gap between science and society became one of the relevant facets that make up a comprehensive approach of the production, application, transference and circulation of knowledge.

Accordingly, this paper has a dual purpose. In the first place, the outcomes of a recent survey of public policies for science communication and culture in Ibero-American countries are compared with similar studies conducted in other regions and nations, in order to analyse the explicit aims, the underlying motivations and the operative strategies developed in each context. A distinction between the manifested interest at a rhetorical level and the factual level of practices actually carried on will be emphasized in this regard, as well as the huge heterogeneity of actions that in each setting are delivered under the general goal of bringing science and technology closer to people. Thus, the second aim of the paper is to discuss a preliminary set of evidence-based criteria that allows to classify and assess them, in order to facilitate a more accurate comparison of the performances among the different contexts. Concluding remarks will highlight the need to advance in this direction, since the efforts and funds devoted to promote scientific culture should be as measurable and assessable like other issues on S&T policies are.

Author: Liliana Cori

Building and fostering the dialogue among young citizen and policy makers in the field of environmental health is the core of GIOCONDA (I GIOvani CONtano nelle Decisioni su Ambiente e salute – the Youth Count in Decisions on Environment and Health, LIFE13 ENV/IT/000225), a European project aimed at realizing an institutionalized participation of the youth in the local decision-making. Challenging the role of science communication, GIOCONDA is conceived as a multidisciplinary project. It combines two monitoring systems: one based on the environmental data collection on air and noise pollution in the project’s sites, measuring the “real” risk; the other based on the risk perception of teenagers in relation to these environmental problems, locally situated. Starting from a network of municipalities, schools and other local authorities in four locations in Italy (Napoli, Taranto, Ravenna and Valdarno), characterized by different environmental pressures and local cultures, the project’s staff applied the two monitoring systems and developed a series of communication, engagement and social research activities. The result is the GIOCONDA’s governance tool, in the shape of an experimental online platform. In the presentation, we will show the results of the project focusing on the complex topic of environment and health, often controversial in science communication, and how it was used to foster the youth’ scientific citizenship. We will show: the five steps used to establish a dialogue among schools, local administrators and other stakeholders; the results of the environmental monitoring and risk perception, used as research-action tools; a first draft of the GIOCONDA’s experimental platform as a place for dialogue and innovative governance including young citizens. The usage and communication of scientific data all along the process resulted in the effective promotion of an evidence-informed decision-making at the local level and helped the involvement of the project’s target.