Talking about values in science communication

Talking about values in science communication

Author: Fabien Medvecky – University of Otago, New Zealand

Massimiano Bucchi – Università di Trento
Michael Dahlstrom – Iowa State University
Joan Leach – Australian National University

This panel asks ‘what is the role of value in science communication?’ One of the main motivations for communicating science is a decision-making one; that we, as individuals and as societies, can make informed decisions; evidence-based, scientifically informed decisions to be exact. However, we know it is empirically false that people (real ones, not the homo-economicus type) make decisions based primarily on evidence and information. While people often use and appeal to scientific information in their decision-making, people do not usually make scientific information primary when making decisions. That’s not to say we don’t make informed decisions. It’s rather that what people take as information in their decision-making is often ‘extra-scientific’ value-driven information. This value-driven information comes in many shapes and sizes, such as ethical (what we take to be morally good or bad), economic (how much things are worth to us in terms of exchangeable resources), and aesthetic (what we view as beautiful, enriching etc). And although science communicators recognise that these values matter, they don’t communicate them very often. Yet we know a lot about values, from ethical theories to empirical economics. Importantly, we don’t make this value-driven information as explicit nor as prominent as we do the scientific information, despite its prominence in people’s decision-making.

In this panel Prof Massimiano Bucchi, Prof Joan Leach, Assoc Prof Michael Dahlstrom and Dr Fabien Medvecky will discuss: what is the role of value in science communication? If we want science communication to remain meaningful to decision-making, we need to tackle this value discussion, and we equally need to reflect on the value(s) of science communication itself.

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

Presentation type: Roundtable discussion
Theme: Society
Area of interest: Building a theoretical basis for science communication