Science in Public: Communication, Culture, and Credibility

Science in Public: Communication, Culture, and Credibility

Science in Public: Communication, Culture, and Credibility

Science in Public: Communication, Culture, and Credibility


Does the general public need to understand science? And if so, is it scientists' responsibility to communicate? Critics have argued that, despite the huge strides made in technology, we live in a "scientifically illiterate" society -- one that thinks about the world and makes important decisions without taking scientific knowledge into account. But is the solution to this "illiteracy" to deluge the layman with scientific information? Or does science news need to be focused around specific issues and organized into stories that are meaningful and relevant to people's lives? In this unprecedented, comprehensive look at a new field, Jane Gregory and Steve Miller point the way to a more effective public understanding of science in the years ahead.


Science has been very much in the public eye in recent years. Not only that, but scientists themselves have had the public very much in mind. Phrases such as "public understanding of science" and "scientific literacy" have achieved unprecedented currency. Both public understanding of science and scientific literacy have been deemed to be "a good thing," and demands have been made--by scientists, politicians, and educators--for more of them.

What the public think of science and what scientists think of the public, and how the media bring the two together, have been matters of some research and considerably more opinion. Sweeping claims are made about the complex interactions of science in the public, and agendas--social, political, and academic-- are rife. Despite the long history of these interactions, there are many people who convey the distinct impression that now is the first time Western culture has attempted to deal with science in public.

It may be fair to say that now is the first time in history when public understanding of science has been analyzed to any great extent. The "problem" of science in public is now an object of study for academics. Their efforts, drawing on long and respected methodological traditions and informed by painstaking research, have served to highlight the complexity of the entities involved; but they have also begun to unravel some of these complexities and to offer paths along which one might achieve some understanding of the public understanding of science.

A considerable part of our motivation in writing this book was our own frustration at the sloth with which the results of this work seem to be informing policies and practice in the public understanding of science, and at the frequency with . . .

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