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  • Cited by 2
  • Print publication year: 2011
  • Online publication date: May 2013

1 - Deficits and dialogues: science communication and the public understanding of science in the UK

Summary

Introduction

In 1985 the Royal Society published a report on the public understanding of science (PUS), eponymously known as the Bodmer Report after Dr (now Sir) Walter Bodmer who chaired the working group which produced it and contributes the Foreword to this book (Royal Society 1985). This report problematised the public's knowledge of science and gave rise to a variety of science communication activities aimed at correcting a perceived lack of scientific knowledge by the public. Fifteen years later another key report by the House of Lords Select Committee on Science and Technology argued that society's relationship with science was in a critical phase (House of Lords Select Committee on Science and Technology 2000). Almost overnight, science communication activities practised by scientific and government agencies as ‘public understanding of science’, were replaced by encouragement for new methods of public engagement and dialogue under the new label of ‘Science and Society’.

Many regarded this as a watershed moment in the public understanding of science movement. The idea that the public were deficient in scientific knowledge and should therefore be exposed to science communication by scientific experts was replaced by a dialogue model of communication which framed the public in a very different manner – a public who should be listened to, who had something meaningful to input into scientific policy-making and whose trust in scientists needed rebuilding – a view which continues to the present day.

Key resources
Gregory, J.Miller, S. 1998 Science in Public: Communication, Culture and CredibilityNew YorkPlenum
Holliman, R.Whitelegg, E. 2008 Investigating Science Communication in the Information Age: Implications for Public Engagement and Popular MediaOxfordOxford University Press
Irwin, A. 2006 ‘The Politics of Talk: Coming to Terms with the “New” Scientific Governance’Social Studies of Science 36 299
Irwin, A.Wynne, B. 1996 Misunderstanding Science? The Public Reconstruction of Science and TechnologyCambridgeCambridge University Press
Wilsdon, J.Willis, R. 2004 See-Through Science: Why Public Engagement Needs to Move UpstreamLondonDemos
Wynne, B. 2006 ‘Public Engagement as a Means of Restoring Public Trust in Science – Hitting the Notes, but Missing the Music?’Community Genetics 9 211
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