Unpacking the

Author: Todd Newman – University of Wisconsin-Madison, United States


  • Chris Volpe – ScienceCounts, United States

The purpose of using marketing techniques is grounded in one of the cornerstones of communication: “know your audience.” Yet, in our efforts as a community to better understand public engagement and communication, we have overlooked the latent associations of both scientists and the public to science.

One of the first forays into this line of research finds that when asked how respondents “feel when they hear the word science,” over 60 percent of the U.S. public responds “hope.” To follow-up on this finding from the scientists’ perspective, recent evidence from a survey sent to members of 27 professional STEM societies in fall 2018 (N=3,619) finds more mixed results: only 35% of scientists respond “hope,” while 35% respond “joy and excitement.”

The functional, symbolic, and emotional connection that both the public and scientists have to science are the building blocks for understanding the brand of science. Just as marketers carry out similar exercises to understand customers’ relationships with particular products or services, so to must science communication professionals understand these similar dynamics.

This presentation will present original evidence on how the U.S. public thinks about the brand of science, and the way in which the global scientific community can strategically think about these meanings. For example, these differences may result in two different meanings: those who see science as more “pay-off” oriented (i.e. some type of reward in the future) versus those who see science as more “process” oriented (i.e. some type of reward in the present). In this presentation I will unpack the ambiguity in these meanings, and why ultimately this evidence suggests promising directions for how the scientific community guides communication and engagement strategies with both the public and scientists.

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

Presentation type: Individual paper
Theme: Transformation