Author: Massimiano Bucchi – Università di Trento, Italy

How do we recognise “good” and “bad” science communication?

The theme of quality has long been neglected in our field, as it has been the theme of values of science communication.

During the last decade, however, in the literature as well as at PCST conferences, a new and promising discussion of these themes has begun, highlighting (among other things) that quality in science communication cannot be neither assessed nor addressed without reference to the broader social, political and cultural context, including values, aims, expectations towards science communication.

In this insight talk, I propose explore the potential of traditional cardinal virtues and capital vices to provide a source of intellectual inspiration for dealing with the challenges of quality and values in science communication.

For example, do vices like wrath or pride belong in (bad) science communication? And can we regard prudence and temperance as virtues of good science communication?

This insight talk is based on theoretical studies and reflection (from Aristoteles to contemporary science communication studies), drawing upon examples and results from science communication research (e.g. studies of aims of science communication, impact evaluation studies).

The author has not yet submitted a copy of the full paper.

Presentation type: Insight talk
Theme: Time

Author: Massimiano Bucchi – Università di Trento, Italy


  • Germana Barata – State University of Campinas-Unicamp, Brazil
  • Maja Horst – DTU, Denmark
  • Julia Metag – University of Muenster, Germany
  • Brian Trench – DCU, Ireland

The panel will examine key ideas and trends in science communication studies as the field has developed during the last decade.

What is the common lexicon, what are the core ideas, theoretical and empirical backgrounds that a student of science communication is supposed to be familiar with today?

The panel is organised in connection with the publication in 2020 of the 3rd edition of the Handbook of Public Communication of Science and Technology (Routledge).

How has the field changed during the decade since the first edition of the Handbook appeared (2008) and what are the current trends and challenges?

The panel will feature the two editors and two contributors of the Handbook, plus a discussant.

Maja Horst will offer insights from the cultural-sociological study of science communication. In particular, she will discuss issues of identity and sense-making. Science communication is not just about making complicated things simple, so that lay-people can understand them. It is also about who we are as citizens, scientists and scientific organisations in a modern knowledge society.

Julia Metag will address issues in the analysis of science publics, such as the relationship between information behaviour and attitudes towards science, the formation of different segments in the public as well as methodological questions of researching science publics.

Massimiano Bucchi and Brian Trench will propose an expanded definition of science communication that embraces informal, non-purposive communication as well as that which is targeted and strategic, and that goes beyond the deficit versus dialogue dispute that remains an undercurrent of current discussions.

Germana Barata will add further insights and elements for discussion.

The author has not yet submitted a copy of the full paper.

Presentation type: Roundtable discussion
Theme: Time

Author: Massimiano Bucchi

Since Hooke’s Micrographia (1665), modern science has put images at the center of its communicative processes: drawings, diagrams, schemes and later photographs, satellite images, film. In age of digital communication, specialists and publics live constantly immersed in aa visually dense environment, particularly when it comes to science and technology content. The quality – and sometimes even the beauty – of images has acquired great importance in order to publish papers in academic journals in areas like the physical, astronomical or life sciences. In the popular domain, think of the pervasive role played by the “modern cult of infographics”, the presentation of data in sophisticated/interactive form which has become common place for leading digital outlets. Do we have the competence to decipher all these images, often complex and elaborate? If the so-called scientific literacy is a standard indicator of public understanding of science, much less studied so far is visual scientific literacy. The initial results of a pilot experimental survey of visual scientific literacy conducted on a representative sample of Italian population will also be presented.

Author: Massimiano Bucchi

Massimiano Bucchi, University of Trento, Italy
Sarah R. Davies, University of Copenhagen
Marina Joubert, Stellenbosch University, South Africa
Bruce Lewenstein, Cornell University, USA
Brian Trench, President PCST

Over recent years, there has been much discussion of the status of science communication as a discipline, as a field of empirical research and theoretical reflection. But when a major international academic publisher commissions an anthology of ‘major works’ in our field, we can surely say that science communication studies have come of age. From a scattering of personal stories, manuals and essays there has emerged a growing stream of publications that now constitute a ‘literature’ in public communication of science. Analytical and critical work in science communication has consolidated in the past two decades, and the rate of publication has accelerated greatly. But what is the legacy of five decades of science communication research? What we know and what we still don’t know? Which theories and models have become most influential and which empirical results stand the test of time? Which works can be considered classics and what are the most recent and relevant trends? What do the best of science communication studies say to science communication practice? Is it inevitable that contemporary science communication studies revisit old themes again and again? The publication a four-volume ‘mini library’ of public communication of science (Routledge, Major Works series 2015) is the occasion to reflect on the state and maturation of research in our field with the two editors Massimiano Bucchi (also new editor of the journal Public Understanding of Science) and Brian Trench (President PCST); Bruce Lewenstein (one of the key figures in establishing science communication as a university subject, who has written extensively on the history of public communication of science); Sarah Davies (preparing a book on science communication theory) and Marina Joubert (with a longstanding experience in science communication practice and now also active as researcher in the field).