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Public Understanding of Science

Melanie Smallman
Over the past 10 years, numerous public debates on new and emerging science and technologies have taken place in the United Kingdom. In this article, we characterise the discourses emerging from these debates and compare them to the discourses in analogous expert scientific and policy reports. We find that while the public is broadly supportive of new scientific developments, they see the risks and social and ethical issues associated with them as unpredictable but inherent parts of the developments. In contrast, the scientific experts and policymakers see risks and social and ethical issues as manageable and quantifiable with more research and knowledge...
May 1, 2017: Public Understanding of Science
Guoyan Wang, Jane Gregory, Xi Cheng, Yuting Yao
Our statistical analysis of research publications in the prestigious scientific journals Nature, Science and Cell reveals that papers represented by an image on the journal's cover gain many more citations in the academic literature than those papers in the same journals that are not represented on the cover. Meanwhile, the number of images used by high-prestige journals is much higher than that used by journals in general, which indicates both the emergence of a new aesthetic of prestige scientific publication, and also that this aesthetic is relevant to journals' impact...
May 1, 2017: Public Understanding of Science
Branden B Johnson
Publicized disputes between groups of scientists may force lay choices about groups' credibility. One possible, little studied, credibility cue is vote-counting (proportions of scientists on either side): for example, "97%" of climate scientists believe in anthropogenic climate change. An online sample of 2600 Americans read a mock article about a scientific dispute, in a 13 (proportions: 100%-0%, 99%-1%, … 50%-50%, … 1%-99%, 0%-100% for Positions A and B, respectively) × 8 (scenarios: for example, dietary salt, dark matter) between-person experiment...
April 1, 2017: Public Understanding of Science
Miguel Alcíbar
This study explores the role that information visualisation played in the popularisation of the technical-biomedical aspects of the last Ebola virus epidemic, the most devastating to date. Applying content analysis methods, the total population of information visualisations ( N = 209) was coded and analysed to identify topics, and to define features and identify patterns in the images. The corpus was based on the record of articles with graphics appearing in five Spanish reference newspapers from 22 March 2014 to 13 January 2016, the start and suppression of the epidemic, respectively...
April 1, 2017: Public Understanding of Science
Vincenzo Pavone, Kirstie Ball, Sara Degli Esposti, Sally Dibb, Elvira Santiago-Gómez
This article investigates the normative and procedural criteria adopted by European citizens to assess the acceptability of surveillance-oriented security technologies. It draws on qualitative data gathered at 12 citizen summits in nine European countries. The analysis identifies 10 criteria, generated by citizens themselves, for a socially informed security policy. These criteria not only reveal the conditions, purposes and operation rules that would make current European security policies and technologies more consistent with citizens' priorities...
April 1, 2017: Public Understanding of Science
Merryn McKinnon, Johanna Howes, Andrew Leach, Natasha Prokop
Scientists, science communicators and science journalists interact to deliver science news to the public. Yet the value of interactions between the groups in delivering high-quality science stories is poorly understood within Australia. A recent study in New Zealand on the perspectives of the three groups on the challenges facing science journalism is replicated here in the context of New South Wales and the Australian Capital Territory. While all three groups perceived the quality of science journalism as generally high, the limitations of non-specialists and public relation materials were causes for concern...
March 1, 2017: Public Understanding of Science
Rupert Cole
No abstract text is available yet for this article.
May 2017: Public Understanding of Science
Rob Bellamy, Javier Lezaun
In a short period of time, climate 'geoengineering' has been added to the list of technoscientific issues subject to deliberative public engagement. Here, we analyse this rapid trajectory of publicization and explore the particular manner in which the possibility of intentionally altering the Earth's climate system to curb global warming has been incorporated into the field of 'public engagement with science'. We describe the initial framing of geoengineering as a singular object of debate and subsequent attempts to 'unframe' the issue by placing it within broader discursive fields...
May 2017: Public Understanding of Science
Hsiang-Fu Huang
No abstract text is available yet for this article.
April 2017: Public Understanding of Science
Tiago Santos Pereira, António Carvalho, Paulo F C Fonseca
This article explores the evolution of the nuclear energy debate and its associated controversies in the Portuguese parliament. The analysis focuses on the dictatorial regime of the New State (from the beginning of the nuclear program in 1951 until the 1974 revolution) and on the democratic period (post-1974). Portugal, as an exporting country of uranium minerals, significantly invested in the development of a national capacity in nuclear research, but never developed an endogenous nuclear power infrastructure...
April 2017: Public Understanding of Science
Ana Aliende Urtasun, Asunción Luquin, Julián J Garrido
This research examines the evolution of nuclear technology in Spain from the early years of the Franco dictatorship to the global financial crisis and technology's influence on Spanish culture. To this end, we take a sociological perspective, with science culture and social perceptions of risk in knowledge societies serving as the two elements of focus in this work. In this sense, this article analyses the transformation of social relationships in light of technological changes. We propose technology as a strategic place to observe the institutional and organisational dynamics of technologic-scientific risks, the expert role and Spain's science culture...
April 2017: Public Understanding of Science
Aliaksandr Novikau
The Belarusian government's decision of the last decade to build a nuclear power plant near the city of Ostrovets, in northern Belarus, has proven to be controversial, resulting in a great deal of debate about nuclear energy in the country. The debate was inevitably shaped by the traumatic event that affected Belarus - the Chernobyl nuclear accident of 1986. The Belarusian authorities have consistently promoted a positive view of nuclear energy to the population in order to overcome the so-called 'Chernobyl syndrome' and deliberately shaped nuclear risk communication...
April 2017: Public Understanding of Science
Salla Ahola
Whether people blindly trust experts on all occasions or whether they evaluate experts' views and question them if necessary is a vital question. This study investigates associations of human values with the readiness to question experts' views and one's reasons for not disagreeing with experts among randomly sampled Finns. Readiness to question experts' views and one's reasons for not disagreeing were inferred from self-reported written accounts. Value priorities were measured with Schwartz et al.'s Portrait Values Questionnaire and Wach and Hammer's items concerning rational and non-rational truth...
April 2017: Public Understanding of Science
Mari K Niemi, Ville Pitkänen
Several studies conducted in Western democracies have indicated that men continue to be overrepresented and women underrepresented as experts in the media. This article explores the situation in Finland, a progressive and 'female-friendly' Nordic country with highly educated women who are widely present in the job market. The analysis is based on three sets of research data featuring a wide set of media data, a survey and interviews. This study reveals that public expertise continues to be male dominated in Finland: less than 30% of the experts interviewed in the news media are women...
April 2017: Public Understanding of Science
Marja Ylönen, Tapio Litmanen, Matti Kojo, Pirita Lindell
When the Fukushima accident occurred in March 2011, Finland was at the height of a nuclear renaissance, with the Government's decision-in-principle in 2010 to allow construction of two new nuclear reactors. This article examines the nuclear power debate in Finland after Fukushima. We deploy the concepts of (de)politicisation and hyperpoliticisation in the analysis of articles in the country's main newspaper. Our analysis indicates that Finnish nuclear exceptionalism manifested in the safety-related depoliticising and the nation's prosperity-related hyperpoliticisation arguments of the pro-nuclear camp...
April 2017: Public Understanding of Science
Clara Rubincam
This article highlights how African men and women in South Africa account for the plausibility of alternative beliefs about the origins of HIV and the existence of a cure. This study draws on the notion of a "street-level epistemology of trust"-knowledge generated by individuals through their everyday observations and experiences-to account for individuals' trust or mistrust of official claims versus alternative explanations about HIV and AIDS. Focus group respondents describe how past experiences, combined with observations about the power of scientific developments and perceptions of disjunctures in information, fuel their uncertainty and skepticism about official claims...
April 2017: Public Understanding of Science
Nathan F Dieckmann, Branden B Johnson, Robin Gregory, Marcus Mayorga, Paul K J Han, Paul Slovic
Expert disputes can present laypeople with several challenges including trying to understand why such disputes occur. In an online survey of the US public, we used a psychometric approach to elicit perceptions of expert disputes for 56 forecasts sampled from seven domains. People with low education, or with low self-reported topic knowledge, were most likely to attribute disputes to expert incompetence. People with higher self-reported knowledge tended to attribute disputes to expert bias due to financial or ideological reasons...
April 2017: Public Understanding of Science
Kristian H Nielsen, Mads P Sørensen
This commentary argues that we need to take ignorance and non-knowledge seriously in the fields of science communication and public understanding of science. As much as we want ignorance to disappear, it seems that it is here to stay-in the sciences and in the rest of society. Drawing on the vast but scattered literature on ignorance and non-knowledge, we suggest that paying closer attention to these phenomena could be beneficial for science communicators. Despite the fact that ignorance and non-knowledge, just like knowledge, today are highly politicized fields, they may also open up for new lines of inquiry and may be key to more pluralistic and equal democratic deliberation about science and technology...
April 2017: Public Understanding of Science
Bankole A Falade, Martin W Bauer
This study, of modern common sense in Nigeria, combines questionnaires and interviews to examine the compatibility and incompatibility of religion and science. Nigeria is a large country with a complex diversity of religious, ethnic and cultural practices that condition the reception and elaboration of science in everyday life. We find evaluative attitudes to science structured as 'progress', 'fear' and 'mythical image'. Scientific knowledge and religiosity have a direct bearing on expectations of progress and feeling of fear and worry about science; mythical image is independent of this...
February 1, 2017: Public Understanding of Science
Kristrún Gunnarsdóttir, Kjetil Rommetveit
The decision in Europe to implement biometric passports, visas and residence permits was made at the highest levels without much consultation, checks and balances. Council regulation came into force relatively unnoticed in January 2005, as part of wider securitization policies urging systems interoperability and data sharing across borders. This article examines the biometric imaginary that characterizes this European Union decision, dictated by executive powers in the policy vacuum after 9/11 - a depiction of mobility governance, technological necessity and whom/what to trust or distrust, calling upon phantom publics to justify decisions rather than test their grounding...
February 2017: Public Understanding of Science
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