Science Communication Theory in the real world - Communication Theory in the real world Dr Rhian Salmon Science in Society group, Victoria University of Wellington Engagement ProgrammeLead,

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  • ScienceCommunicationTheoryintherealworld

    Dr RhianSalmonScienceinSocietygroup,


    EngagementProgramme Lead,DeepSouthNationalScienceChallenge

  • SCIENCEManyperspectivesanddefinitions






  • Scienceisdonebypeople

  • Scienceisdonebypeople




  • Envirolink grants

    Envirolink: acouncil-managedknowledgetransferschemedesignedtoincreasetheamountoftechtransferfromgovernment-fundedenvironmentalresearchtocouncils.



  • WhatisthepurposeofScienceCommunication?

    Fromtheperspectiveof Scientists Media(journalists) Differentmembersofthepublic Councils??

  • social responsibility

    encourage public engagement with science

    inspire a next generation of scientists

    increase scientific literacy

    justify public funding

    support communication & education professionals

    because its inherently rewarding and fun

    because its a good thing to do

    Why scientists get involved in education,outreach, & public engagement?

  • Increase funding (public and private)

    reach politicians through public support (votes)

    attract students (recruitment)

    have political influence


    visibility for your research / yourself / your group (marketing)

    commercial interests

    Why scientists get involved in education,outreach, & public engagement?

  • Whatisthepurposeofsciencecommunication?

    Fromtheperspectiveof Scientists Media(journalists) Differentmembersofthepublic Councils?

  • Whatisthepurposeofsciencecommunication?

    Fromtheperspectiveof Scientists Media(journalists) Differentmembersofthepublic Councils?


  • Whycommunicatescience?therearesixprincipalobjectivesthatmotivatepeopleandorganisations todevelopactivitiestocommunicatescience.Theseare:


    Topromoteanindividualorganisation Publicaccountability Torecruitthenextgenerationofscientistsandengineers Togainacceptanceofscienceandnewtechnologies;and Tosupportsoundandeffectivedecision-making


  • TheDeepSouthNationalScienceChallenge


  • TheDeepSouthChallenge

  • EngagementProgramme:bigpicture

  • 1.InformingResearchPriorities

  • 2.Sharing&useofinformation

  • 3.Capabilitybuilding

  • 4.Democraticprocesses

  • ArticulationinanEngagement Strategy



  • EngagementGoal:toimproveNewZealandersabilityandcapacitytomakedecisionsinformedbyclimatechangescience.

    1. Ensuring researchresponds toNewZealandersneeds2. Publiccommunicationand2-wayengagementtohelpinformclimate-relateddecisions3. Workingwithkeysectorstoenablemoreinformed decision-making4. Providing trainingandsupport inclimatechangeengagement5. Providing Challengeupdatesandinformation6. Evaluationandresearch


    .whichisdelivered(practically)through fourworkstreams:

    1. BroadandInternalEngagement2. TailoredEngagement3. Capacitybuilding (training) inengagement4. Evaluationandresearch

  • Butwhatdoesthisactuallylooklike?

  • Alotofresearchhasoccurredinthisarea overthelastfortyyearstherehasbeenatransitionfrom

    Knowledgetransfer(Wynne2005,Irwin2006,Trench2008,Pouliot 2009)

    Knowledgesharing(Jackson,Barbagello &Haste,2006Benneworth 2009)

    Knowledgebuilding(Joly &Kaufman2008,Williams2010)

  • Transfer sharing- buildingAim Nature Emphasis Model



    Content DeficitDiffusion



    Context DialogueDemocracy





  • KnowledgeTransfer


    - Norequiredaction- Littlecontroversy- Basedoncommonlyunderstoodprinciplesandlaws

    Aim Nature Emphasis Model



    Content DeficitDiffusion

  • KnowledgeTransferAim Nature Emphasis Model



    Content DeficitDiffusion

    NewZealandGeographicfeaturearticle Websiteandnewsupdates E-newsletter Radiointerviews&podcasts Newsarticles Infographic Reports

  • KnowledgeTransfer




    Aim Nature Emphasis Model



    Content DeficitDiffusion

  • Deficitmodel;example1

    Sir Public hostility towards biotechnol-ogies is frequently attributed to lack ofinformation, due to poor and insufficientmedia coverage. For this reason, scientificresearchers and policy-makers often callfor journalists to give more attention toscientific issues, for better informationcampaigns and for more communicationof science, to improve generalunderstanding and thereby lead to greaterpublic support for biotechnologies andother innovations. But is this approachcorrect?

    In 2000 and 2001, with partial supportfrom the Giannino Bassetti Foundation,we carried out two surveys of Italianpublic opinion. These were specifically to analyse the relationships betweenexposure to science in the media,information on biotechnologies, trust inscience, and attitudes to biotechnologies. A representative sample of 1,022 Italiancitizens aged over 18 were interviewed by phone in September 2000; anotherrepresentative sample of 1,017 citizenswere interviewed in November 2001.Some questions were identical for the twogroups, others were year-specific. (A copyof the full list of questions used in thesurvey and the percentage response ratesis available from M.B.)

    Respondents were asked about theirlevel of exposure to science in specifieddaily newspapers, television and radioscience programmes, popular sciencebooks and magazines. We used questionssimilar to those of 1999 Eurobarometer(see, but also askedadditional ones about trust in science andscientists, and the use, risks and moralacceptability of biotechnologies.

    Our results confirm previoussuspicions that exposure to informationdoes not always lead to greater trust inbiotechnologies. We also find that greaterexposure to science in the media does notnecessarily mean a higher level ofunderstanding. The proportion of subjectswho think only genetically modifiedtomatoes contain genes while ordinarytomatoes dont, for example, is almostidentical among those with high (29%)and low (31%) exposure to science in themedia. More than a quarter of the regularconsumers of science in the media (28%)cannot give more than one correct answerto five questions about biotechnologies,and more than half (57%) cannot givemore than two correct answers.

    High exposure to science in the mediadoes not significantly reduce opposition to

    applications such as taking genes fromplant species and transferring them intocrop plants, to make them more resistantto insect pests or introducing humangenes into animals to produce organs forhuman transplants, such as into pigs forhuman heart transplants. But it doesresult in greater criticism for someapplications: 64% of the most exposedsubjects consider embryo research to beethically unacceptable compared with 59%of the less exposed, and 80% of regularconsumers of science in the mediaconsider reproductive cloning uselesscompared with 76% of low consumers.

    Of course, media exposure to sciencedoes not guarantee accurate information;indeed, there are frequent complaints aboutthe quality of science coverage by the massmedia. People who are exposed to at leastone high-quality source of publiccommunication of science (for example, the Italian edition of Scientific American)are more likely to have a positive attitude to biotechnologies. Yet this result merelyhighlights a well-known paradox in thecommunication of science: the greatestimpact is on a small minority, who are mostlikely to have the information already.

    A high level of information does notguarantee a positive attitude: 49% of thebetter-informed respondents think thattransferring genes into fruit or vegetablesis useless, and 54% think it is risky.Embryo research fares poorly (60% inboth groups consider it unacceptable),

    whereas cloning for reproductive purposesis even more severely judged by the betterinformed than by the less well informed.

    A higher level of information isassociated with the desire for stricter stateregulation of biotechnologies, as well aswith the belief that regulation should notbe left e