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Members of the public can disagree with scientists in at least two ways: people can reject well-established scientific theories and they can believe fabricated, deceptive claims about science to be true. Scholars examining the reasons for these disagreements find that some individuals are more likely than others to diverge from scientists because of individual factors such as their science literacy, political ideology, and religiosity. This study builds on this literature by examining the role of conspiracy mentality in these two phenomena. Participants were recruited from a national online panel (N = 513) and in person from the first annual Flat Earth International Conference (N = 21). We found that conspiracy mentality and science literacy both play important roles in believing viral and deceptive claims about science, but evidence for the importance of conspiracy mentality in the rejection of science is much more mixed.
Academic Medical Centers (AMCs) offer patient care and perform research. Increasingly, AMCs advertise to the public in order to garner income that can support these dual missions. In what follows, we raise concerns about the ways that advertising blurs important distinctions between them. Such blurring is detrimental to AMC efforts to fulfill critically important ethical responsibilities pertaining both to science communication and clinical research, because marketing campaigns can employ hype that weakens research integrity and contributes to therapeutic misconception and misestimation, undermining the informed consent process that is essential to the ethical conduct of research. We offer ethical analysis of common advertising practices that justify these concerns. We also suggest the need for a deliberative body convened by the Association of American Medical Colleges and others to develop a set of voluntary guidelines that AMCs can use to avoid in the future, the problems found in many current AMC advertising practices.
Art may be made as a guide to understanding sense of place, and also as a pathway to understanding and valuing scientific ideas. Here we consider this connection in the context of a selected history of artists working in Antarctica, from early explorers to the modern era. This provides a parallel trajectory for the nature, realisation and purpose of the art. We then consider the interaction between art and science and the nature of interdisciplinary work by looking at work produced in a sea ice-based science field camp by an artist collecting data – both scientific and art focused. The artist participated in two field campaigns a year apart, allowing comparison of the evolution of both the artistic practice and the science data collection. Furthermore, the collection of data that served both needs provides a unique point of connection between two fields of endeavour, which are typically considered as separate.
The birth of Louise Brown, the world’s first ‘test-tube baby’, has come to signify the moment at which technologically assisted human reproduction became a re ality. This was a highly mediated and visible reality, as this article explores through the example of a British television documentary about Louise Brown broadcast when she was just six weeks old, ‘To Mrs Brown… A Daughter’ (Thames Television, 1978). In the article, I discuss the programme alongside data from an interview with its producer, Peter Williams. Williams sought to convince the public that IVF was morally acceptable and to cultivate sympathy for the infertile through this film. I will consider how he went about this by focusing on the programme’s visual presentation of Louise Brown, Peter Williams’ aims in making the film and his sympathetic relationship with the ‘pioneers’ of IVF, gynaecologist Patrick Steptoe and physiologist Robert Edwards. I will conclude with a discussion of the political implications of this film and how it contributed to the normalisation of IVF at a pivotal moment in its history.
The International Polar Year 2007–2008 stimulated a wide range of education, outreach and communication (EOC) related to polar research, and catalysed enthusiasm and networks that persist ten years on. Using a multi-method approach that incorporates case studies, auto-ethnographic interviews, and survey data, we interrogate the opportunities and limitations of polar EOC activities and propose a new framework for practical, reflexive, engagement design. Our research suggests that EOC activities are under-valued and often designed based on personal instinct rather than strategic planning, but that there is also a lack of accessible tools that support a more strategic design process. We propose three foci for increasing the professionalisation of practitioner approaches to EOC: (1) improved articulation of goals and objectives; (2) acknowledgement of different drivers, voices and power structures; and (3) increased practical training, resources and reporting structures. We respond to this by proposing a framework for planning and design of public engagement that provides an opportunity to become more transparent and explicit about the real goals of an activity and what “success” looks like. This is critical to effectively evaluate, learn from our experiences, share them with peers, and ultimately deliver more thoughtfully designed, effective engagement.
Polar Educators International (PEI) is a volunteer-based organization designed to build collaborative relationships between educators and polar researchers. Founded in 2012, PEI was created out of the networks formed during the International Polar Year 2007–2008. This paper explores PEI’s first five years (2012–17) of successes, challenges and opportunities that have led to the creation of an organization with over 1,500 members. Using a ‘level of participation’ framework for communities of practice, we examine the evolution of this educator-researcher network and focus on two key questions: 1) who has PEI reached and served over this time?, and 2) what are barriers to participation? Barriers include sustained engagement with researchers and establishing value within institutional frameworks that generally undervalue activities referred to as ‘education and outreach’ (EOC). EOC activities continue to be perceived as extra-curricular in both educator and researcher communities. Working to deepen collaboration with polar researchers and targeting a greater diversity of PEI’s membership to fill core leadership functions should be future areas of focus for PEI as it looks to continue to shape polar EOC. Advancing and enhancing polar EOC extends well beyond PEI and should be a priority for the broader polar science and education communities.
A lasting legacy of the International Polar Year (IPY) 2007–2008 was the promotion of the Permafrost Young Researchers Network (PYRN), initially an IPY outreach and education activity by the International Permafrost Association (IPA). With the momentum of IPY, PYRN developed into a thriving network that still connects young permafrost scientists, engineers, and researchers from other disciplines. This research note summarises (1) PYRN’s development since 2005 and the IPY’s role, (2) the first 2015 PYRN census and survey results, and (3) PYRN’s future plans to improve international and interdisciplinary exchange between young researchers. The review concludes that PYRN is an established network within the polar research community that has continually developed since 2005. PYRN’s successful activities were largely fostered by IPY. With >200 of the 1200 registered members active and engaged, PYRN is capitalising on the availability of social media tools and rising to meet environmental challenges while maintaining its role as a successful network honouring the legacy of IPY.
In May 2016, the National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine (NASEM) released the report “Genetically Engineered Crops: Experiences and Prospects,” summarizing scientific consensus on genetically engineered crops and their implications. NASEM reports aim to give the public and policymakers information on socially relevant science issues. Their impact, however, is not well understood. This analysis combines national pre- and post-report survey data with a large-scale content analysis of Twitter discussion to examine the report’s effect on public perceptions of genetically modified organisms (GMOs). We find that the report’s release corresponded with reduced negativity in Twitter discourse and increased ambivalence in public risk and benefit perceptions of GMOs, mirroring the NASEM report’s conclusions. Surprisingly, this change was most likely for individuals least trusting of scientific studies or university scientists. Our findings indicate that NASEM consensus reports can help shape public discourse, even in, or perhaps because of, the complex information landscape of traditional and social media.
Permafrost occupies 20 million square kilometres of Earth’s high-latitude and high-altitude landscapes. These regions are sensitive to climate change and human activities; hence, permafrost research is of considerable scientific and societal importance. However, the results of this research are generally not known by the general public. Communicating scientific concepts is an increasingly important task in the research world. Different ways to engage learners and incorporate narratives in teaching materials exist, yet they are generally underused. Here we report on an international scientific outreach project called “Frozen-Ground Cartoons”, which aims at making permafrost science accessible and fun for students, teachers, and parents through the creation of comic strips. We present the context in which the project was initiated, as well as recent education and outreach activities. The future phases of the project primarily involve a series of augmented reality materials, such as maps, photos, videos, and 3D drawings. With this project we aim to foster understanding of permafrost research among broader audiences, inspire future permafrost researchers, and raise public and science community awareness of polar science, education, outreach, and engagement.
The Rio scale is a tool for communicating the significance of a signal to the general public. It assigns scores to signals detected in searches for extraterrestrial intelligence (SETI), which characterizes both the consequences of a signal and the probability the signal is truly from ETI, in an easily digestible format for laypeople to interpret. In the 17 years since its construction, the number of groups actively conducting searches for evidence of intelligent life beyond the Earth has increased significantly, and theoretical work has established a new suite of observables that are capable of revealing the presence of ETI in a range of astronomical observations. In this paper, we revise the Rio scale, with the aim of (i) achieving consensus across academic disciplines on a scheme for classifying signals potentially indicating the existence of advanced extraterrestrial life, (ii) supplying a pedagogical tool to help inform the public about the process scientists go through to develop an understanding of a signal and (iii) providing a means of calibrating the expectations of the world at large when signals are discussed in the media. We also present (and encourage the SETI community to adopt) a single set of consistent terminology for discussing signals.
The American public's beliefs about the causes of social inequality vary greatly, with debates over the causes of racial inequality tending to be the most salient and divisive. Among whites in particular, liberals tend to see inequality as rooted in society's ills, whereas conservatives tend to see inequality as rooted in individuals’ shortcomings. Given this, many infer that white conservatives are more likely than white liberals to adopt the controversial view that racial inequality is “natural,” i.e., due to genetically inherited characteristics. We argue that genetic explanations for racial inequality, in and of themselves, offer little appeal to white conservatives. However, when white citizens are exposed to media messages that emphasize the egalitarian implications of genetic similarity between racial groups, those on the left and right engage in biased assimilation, resulting in a “nature” (conservative) versus “nurture” (liberal) divide. Data from two studies of white Americans—one representative survey and one experiment—support this theoretical framework.
Over the past few decades the mass media have increasingly shaped public awareness. For many people, television, the radio, or the press are the only sources for archaeological topics and it is essential, therefore, to be able to collaborate with the world of journalism. It is not only sensational news stories that have an opportunity of being covered by the media, but also serious issues – provided that they are well told. Communicating scientific results to an audience outside one's own specialist subject is, however, not only a question of good will, but also of skill. This article focuses on how to get the attention of the mass media, how to exert influence on the quality of a newspaper article, radio or film, and how to communicate what is really important. It provides an overview of public and media relations and tries to give some helpful suggestions.
Many conservation land managers working with invasive plants rely largely on their own experience and advice from fellow managers for controlling weeds, and rarely take into consideration the scientific literature, a concrete example of a knowing–doing gap. We argue that invasion scientists should directly teach managers best practices for control. In 2013, we created a training program on five invasive plant species, specifically tailored to Québec (Canada) environmental managers. The course material was science-based, and included details on methods and costs. Here, we explain how this idea emerged, how the program was constructed and which types of managers were targeted. With modest resources, we reached 163 managers in less than 18 mo, who collectively oversee invasive species management for 41% of the Québec population. We presented factual information for all control methods, giving the environmental managers the tools to critically and objectively assess various options. Participants especially appreciated the highly practical content of the training and that they could submit their own invasion case for discussion. This program represents significant progress in narrowing the knowing–doing gap associated with the control of invasive plants in Québec, and we encourage such initiatives elsewhere for all fields of invasion biology.
Astronomy for development projects conceive of development in very broad terms and seek to affect a wide range of social outcomes. The histories of education, development economics and science communication research indicate that positive social impacts are often difficult to achieve. Without a scientific approach, astronomy's potential as a tool for development may never be realised nor recognised. Evidence-informed project design increases the chances of a project's success and likely impact while reducing the risk of unintended negative outcomes. The IAU Office of Astronomy for Development (OAD) Impact Cycle is presented here as a possible framework for integrating evaluation and evidence-based practice in global Astronomy outreach and education delivery. The suggested framework offers a way to gradually accumulate knowledge about which approaches are effective and which are not, enabling the astronomy community to gradually increase its social impact by building on its successes.
A journalist's view on science and journalism. The presentation is based on personal experience gained over the past few years as editor of the minute of science broadcasted at Radio Europa FM, Bucharest, Romania, and as editor and writer for the Romanian electronic science newspaper Ziarul stiintelor. Is it possible to have science with or without journalism? Who is waiting for whom, science or journalism? Is astronomy more attractive to the public than other disciplines? Can it be used as a growing factor for the public understanding of science?
With the availability of nice images and amazing, dramatic stories, the fundamental questions it addresses, and the attraction is exerces on many, it is often assumed that astronomy is an obvious topic for the media. Looking more carefully, however, one realises that the truth is perhaps not as glamorous as one would hope, and that, although well present in the media, astronomy's coverage is rather tiny, and often, limited to the specialised pages or magazines.
The TENPLA project (pronounced as “ten-pla”, like a famous Japanese food “Tempura”) is designed to communicate Astronomy with the public in Japan. We have been working to suggest various ways to enjoy astronomy. We have organised star gazing parties, science cafés, and lectures. We have made many goodies which make people interested in astronomy (e.g. “Astronomical Toilet Paper”). We have also provided opportunities to communicate with each other for people who have interests in such activities. In this paper we present a broad overview of the TENPLA project.
The increasing availability of nutrition and health information has not always increased the knowledge of the general population, but presents them with the need to know and understand in order for choices to be made. While communicating science to the lay public, several challenges are encountered, ranging from the heterogeneity of the audience, the consumers, who demand certainty and a straightforward message, through the different aims and agendas of all the communicators, to the inherent complexity of the scientific message. Nowadays, the media is one major source of scientific information to the general public. The present article examines what the role of the media and scientists should be in bringing scientific communication to the public and how this communication could be improved.
To ensure that the best scientific evidence is available to guide conservation action, effective mechanisms for communicating the results of research are necessary. In medicine, an evidence-based approach assists doctors in applying scientific evidence when treating patients. The approach has required the development of new methods for systematically reviewing research, and has led to the establishment of independent organizations to disseminate the conclusions of reviews. (1) Such methods could help bridge gaps between researchers and practitioners of environmental conservation. In medicine, systematic reviews place strong emphasis on reviewing experimental clinical trials that meet strict standards. Although experimental studies are much less common in conservation, many of the components of systematic reviews that reduce the biases when identifying, selecting and appraising relevant studies could still be applied effectively. Other methods already applied in medicine for the review of non-experimental studies will therefore be required in conservation. (2) Using systematic reviews and an evidence-based approach will only be one tool of many to reduce uncertainty when making conservation-related decisions. Nevertheless an evidence-based approach does complement other approaches (for example adaptive management), and could facilitate the use of the best available research in environmental management. (3) In medicine, the Cochrane Collaboration was established as an independent organization to guide the production and dissemination of systematic reviews. It has provided many benefits that could apply to conservation, including a forum for producing and disseminating reviews with emphasis on the requirements of practitioners, and a forum for feedback between researchers and practitioners and improved access to the primary research. Without the Cochrane Collaboration, many of the improvements in research communication that have occurred in medicine over the last decade would not have been possible.
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