Scientists’ Understanding of the Public

Sunday, February 17, 2013: 8:00 AM-9:30 AM
Room 204 (Hynes Convention Center)
Substantial research has focused on the public’s views about science, but science communication scholars have now also begun to study how scientists see the public. Such perceptions are important because communicators’ views about their audiences affect communication behavior. This symposium will report on this emerging body of social science research into how scientists from a variety of fields view the public and the media. Participating researchers will also reflect on their own experiences attempting to shape how scientists think about communication. Analyses based on recent surveys of scientists, as well as qualitative research, will be reported. Overall, this work shows an interest by scientists in public engagement, as well as positive experiences with their efforts. However, the work also shows a continued belief within the scientific community that the primary goal of communication should be to educate the public to ensure that science retains its central place in policy-making processes. Participants will be able to contrast scientists’ views with the scholarship on what drives public views about science. This comparison suggests that the dominant approach to science communication risks further alienating scientists from the public by placing scientists in the role of teachers. In contrast, communication scholars increasingly emphasize the need for scientists to communicate their respect and shared identity with fellow citizens as part of their overall outreach efforts.
John C. Besley, Michigan State University
Hans Peter Peters, Ethics in Neurosciences Research Center; Sharon Dunwoody, University of Wisconsin-Madison
Understanding Scientists' Beliefs about the Public and Public Communication
John C. Besley, Michigan State University
Key Factors Underlying Scientists' Willingness to Engage
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