Investigating Science Communication in the Information Age: Implications for Public Engagement and Popular Media

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How are recent policy changes affecting how scientists engage with the public? How are new technologies influencing how scientists disseminate their work and knowledge? How are new media platforms changing the way the public interact with scientific information?

Investigating Science Communication in the Information Age is a collection of newly-commissioned chapters by leading science communication scholars. It addresses current theoretical, practical and policy developments in science communication, including recent calls for greater openness and transparency; and engagement and dialogue on the part of professional scientists with members of the public. It provides a timely and wide-ranging review of contemporary issues in science communication, focusing on two broad themes.

The first theme critically reviews the recent dialogic turn and ascendant branding of 'public engagement with science'. It addresses contemporary theoretical and conceptual issues facing science communication researchers, and draws on a range of methodological approaches and examples.

The second theme, popular media, examines recent trends in the theory and research of these forms of science communication. It includes contemporary accounts of the study of 'traditional' forms of popular media, including television and newspapers, examining how they are produced, represented and consumed. This theme also documents examples where novel forms of popular media are challenging researchers to re-think how they approach these forms of science communication.

A companion volume, Practising Science Communication in the Information Age, provides an ideal introduction to anyone wishing to reflect on the practices of contemporary science communication.

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Editorial Reviews

From the Publisher
UNEDITED UK REVIEW: "Comprehensive, interesting, and for an academic and teacher in the area, really quite exciting."—Dr. Angela Cassidy, Leeds University Business School

UNEDITED UK REVIEW: "The OU team and associated Readers are well respected and tested texts in science communication. "—Professor Mark Brake, Centre for Astronomy and Science Education, University of Glamorgan

UNEDITED UK REVIEW: "A valuable and much-needed resource."—Professor David Gooding Science Studies Centre, Department of Psychology, University of Bath

"This book provides an overview of how public engagement and popular media influence the way science is communicated. It is well suited as a college text and presents options for further readings and additional web resources for each article. It is accessible to readers, regardless of expertise, due to the use of clear examples and detailed discussions of research findings."—Integrative and Comparative Biology

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Product Details

Meet the Author

Richard Holliman is Senior Lecturer in Science Communication at the Open University (OU), UK and production course team chair of Communicating Science in the Information Age. After completing a PhD investigating the representation of contemporary scientific research in television and newspapers in the Department of Sociology at the OU, in 2000 he moved across the campus to the Faculty of Science. Since that time he has worked on a number of undergraduate and postgraduate course teams, producing mixed media materials that address the interface between science and society. He is a member of the Centre for Research in Education and Educational Technology and is currently leading (with colleagues) the ISOTOPE (Informing Science Outreach and Public Engagement) and (In)visible Witnesses research project teams.

Elizabeth Whitelegg is Senior Lecturer in Science Education working in the Science Faculty at the Open University (OU), and Award Director for Science Short Courses. She recently produced (with Professor Patricia Murphy) a review of the research literature on the participation of girls in physics, for the Institute of Physics. Her main research interest is in girls' and women's participation in science and in learning science (particularly physics) at all levels; she is currently leading (with colleagues) the (In)visible Witnesses project. In 2003 she was invited to become a Fellow of the Institute of Physics.

Eileen Scanlon is Professor of Educational Technology and co-Director of the Centre for Research in Education and Educational Technology at the Open University. She is also Visiting Professor in the Moray House School of Education at the University of Edinburgh.

Sam Smidt is a senior lecturer based in the Department of Physics and Astronomy at the Open University, and Programme Director of the MSc in Science. She has interests in physics education and outreach work in promoting science to the public.

Jeff Thomas is a senior lecturer within the Department of Biological Sciences at the Open University. He has worked at the OU all his professional life, contributing to a wide range of teaching initiatives in biology and in health sciences, and more recently to a range of projects concerned with contemporary science issues and on the relationships between science and different publics, at both undergraduate and Masters level. His research interests are concerned with the influence of contemporary science controversies on public attitude, on conceptual problems of learning biological science, and in public involvement in science-based policy-making. He also teaches part-time for Birkbeck College, University of London on its Diploma in Science Communication.

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Table of Contents

Abbreviations and Acronyms ix

Biographies of Contributors x

Introduction to the Volume xvi

Section 1 Engaging with public engagement 1

1.1 Moving forwards or in circles? Science communication and scientific governance in an age of innovation Alan Irwin 3

1.2 The new politics of public engagement with science Jack Stilgoe James Wilsdon 18

1.3 (In)authentic sciences and (im)partial publics: (re)constructing the science outreach and public engagement agenda Richard Holliman Eric Jensen 35

Section 2 Researching public engagement 53

2.1 Investigating science communication to inform science outreach and public engagement Eric Jensen Richard Holliman 55

2.2 Learning to engage; engaging to learn: the purposes of informal science-public dialogue Sarah Davies 72

2.3 Engaging with interactive science exhibits: a study of children's activity and the value of experience for communicating science Robin Meisner Jonathan Osborne 86

Section 3 Studying science in popular media 103

3.1 Science, communication and media Anders Hansen 105

3.2 Models of science communication Joan Leach Simeon Yates Eileen Scanlon 128

Section 4 Mediating science news 147

4.1 Making science newsworthy: exploring the conventions of science journalism Stuart Allan 149

4.2 Science reporting in the electronic embrace of the internet Brian Trench 166

Section 5 Communicating science in popular media 181

5.1 From flow to user flows: understanding 'good science' programming in the UK digital television landscape James Bennett 183

5.2 Image-music-text of popular science Felicity Mellor 205

Section 6 Examining audiences for popular science 221

6.1 Reinterpreting the audiencesfor media messages about science Susanna Hornig Priest 223

6.2 Investigating gendered representations of scientists, technologists, engineers and mathematicians on UK children's television Jenni Carr Elizabeth Whitelegg Richard Holliman Eileen Scanlon Barbara Hodgson 237

6.3 Interpreting contested science: media influence and scientific citizenship Richard Holliman Eileen Scanlon 254

Final Reflections ... 274

Index 279

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