Science communication

On making people feel they are smart enough to teach themselves, or failing that, that they are smart enough to fund YOU to teach yourself



Philosophy of

For people who wish to learn actionable skills we have teaching. But for people who have not yet decided to learn a thing, we have science communication, which I am not an expert in.

From what I have gathered, the most generous interpretation of the purpose of science communication I think regards the public as people who are ready and curious to learn about the world with just a little bit pre-digestion of specialised information out of respect for their busy schedules.

A less generous version regards the public as the funders of science who should be pacified with a little infotainment so they will keep funding the real scientists to do real work.

Perhaps less generous still, science communication might be the supplier of trite factoids to make the audience sound clever when they regurgitate it somewhere else.

Most cynically of all, good science communication practice is a tool that can be weaponized in information warfare, for example in pseudo-scientific conspiracy theorizing.

I prefer to focus on the first use case, because I do not have the stomach for the others. I am not raising funding for a startup heading to an IPO, which is the thing that would pay me enough to swallow my pride for the next two use cases. I am currently implicated somewhat in (what I hope is) the first use case, so here are some useful links for my own reference.

No but what is science communication?

Turns out my these purposes have been noted and studied by others. Simis et al. (2016) says:

Miller’s formative work led to greater awareness of the need for public engagement with and communication of science and mobilized the scientific community to fill the deficit in knowledge among public audiences. Unfortunately, this approach assumes that scientific knowledge communicated to publics stands alone to encourage understanding and support of science. The interpretation of these facts is assumed to be identical for all members of the public. An assumption of rational reasoning underlies this strategy of public communication. If individuals interpret information in a rational and objective manner, many experts believe that the conclusions of public audiences will be supportive of science. This notion of the knowledge deficit model is epitomized in the phrase “To know science is to love it” (Turney, 1998).

Yet, empirical research has shown that public communication of science is more complex than what the knowledge deficit model suggests (e.g. Brossard et al., 2009; Davies, 2008; Nisbet and Scheufele, 2009; Sturgis and Allum, 2004; Yeo et al., 2015).

Interesting examples of

acapellascience.

Science communication for policy

See science for policy.

Science communication in the community of science

See scientific community.

References

Cook, John, Stephan Lewandowsky, and Ullrich K. H. Ecker. 2017. “Neutralizing Misinformation Through Inoculation: Exposing Misleading Argumentation Techniques Reduces Their Influence.” PLOS ONE 12 (5): e0175799. https://doi.org/10.1371/journal.pone.0175799.
Dawes, Robyn M., David Faust, and Paul E. Meehl. 1989. “Clinical Versus Actuarial Judgment.” Science, March. https://doi.org/10.1126/science.2648573.
Delfanti, Alessandro. 2020. “The Financial Market of Ideas: A Theory of Academic Social Media.” Social Studies of Science, October, 0306312720966649. https://doi.org/10.1177/0306312720966649.
Gasparyan, Armen Yuri, Alexey N. Gerasimov, Alexander A. Voronov, and George D. Kitas. 2015. “Rewarding Peer Reviewers: Maintaining the Integrity of Science Communication.” Journal of Korean Medical Science 30 (4): 360–64. https://doi.org/10.3346/jkms.2015.30.4.360.
Nyhan, Brendan. 2021. “Why the Backfire Effect Does Not Explain the Durability of Political Misperceptions.” Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences 118 (15). https://doi.org/10.1073/pnas.1912440117.
Reyna, Valerie F. 2021. “A Scientific Theory of Gist Communication and Misinformation Resistance, with Implications for Health, Education, and Policy.” Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences 118 (15). https://doi.org/10.1073/pnas.1912441117.
Simis, Molly J., Haley Madden, Michael A. Cacciatore, and Sara K. Yeo. 2016. “The Lure of Rationality: Why Does the Deficit Model Persist in Science Communication?” Public Understanding of Science 25 (4): 400–414. https://doi.org/10.1177/0963662516629749.
Tamariz, Monica, T. Mark Ellison, Dale J. Barr, and Nicolas Fay. 2014. “Cultural Selection Drives the Evolution of Human Communication Systems.” Proceedings of the Royal Society B: Biological Sciences 281 (1788): 20140488. https://doi.org/10.1098/rspb.2014.0488.
Ureña, Raquel, Gang Kou, Yucheng Dong, Francisco Chiclana, and Enrique Herrera-Viedma. 2019. “A Review on Trust Propagation and Opinion Dynamics in Social Networks and Group Decision Making Frameworks.” Information Sciences 478 (April): 461–75. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.ins.2018.11.037.

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