This paper presents findings from research which has examined the content and production of representations of science during the 2001 UK general election. Using qualitative research methods, with a particular focus on key informant, semi-structured interviews, this paper discusses research that has analysed both the dynamic interactions between leading actors from government, NGOs, scientific institutions and the media and, linked to this, their ability to influence the content and production of representations of science. Here, we provide evidence to illustrate that although campaigning on science policy issues was a feature of the general election campaign, these policy issues were rarely a feature of mainstream party political campaigns or national media coverage. Instead, the agenda for science policy was generated largely by a minority of NGOs campaigning on specific platforms. The implications of the research findings in contributing to important current debates will be drawn out. These include debates documenting the politicisation of science, as well as those considering the relationship between representations of science and the formation of public policy. Does, for example, the exchange of ideas within the context of an election campaign influence the shape of public policy? Finally, implications of the research findings for debates examining the contemporary relationship between science and society, in particular the calls for improved dialogue and consultation as a means of enhancing levels of citizenship and engagement, will be considered.

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Public Communication of Science and Technology

 

Is there a mandate for science?

Examining science policy debates during a UK general election

Elizabeth Vidler   Centre for Science Education, Faculty of Science Open University, Offices 6

Richard Holliman   Centre for Science Education, Faculty of Science Open University, Offices 6

Jeff Thomas   Centre for Science Education, Faculty of Science Open University, Offices 6

Walton Hall  

Milton Keynes  

This paper presents findings from research which has examined the content and production of representations of science during the 2001 UK general election. Using qualitative research methods, with a particular focus on key informant, semi-structured interviews, this paper discusses research that has analysed both the dynamic interactions between leading actors from government, NGOs, scientific institutions and the media and, linked to this, their ability to influence the content and production of representations of science. Here, we provide evidence to illustrate that although campaigning on science policy issues was a feature of the general election campaign, these policy issues were rarely a feature of mainstream party political campaigns or national media coverage. Instead, the agenda for science policy was generated largely by a minority of NGOs campaigning on specific platforms. The implications of the research findings in contributing to important current debates will be drawn out. These include debates documenting the politicisation of science, as well as those considering the relationship between representations of science and the formation of public policy. Does, for example, the exchange of ideas within the context of an election campaign influence the shape of public policy? Finally, implications of the research findings for debates examining the contemporary relationship between science and society, in particular the calls for improved dialogue and consultation as a means of enhancing levels of citizenship and engagement, will be considered.

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