The field of neuroscience has been one of the most prominent and active scientific disciplines in science communication, in recent years. It almost seems to be a roll model for science communication in the last decade. Research on the public communication of neuroscience has been mostly focussing on the quality and standards of the popularisation of scientific knowledge or the interpretation and understanding of neuroscience by the public. The importance of science communication for the field of neuroscience and its relevance for the raise and professionalization of the academic discipline have long been neglected, though.

I will argue that the reason for the growing prominence of the brain and the dominance of Neuroscience within the academy and beyond is based on the neuroscience practice to consequently popularise scientific knowledge and make it available to other scientific disciplines as well as to the public. Hence, I aim to analyse this practice and to reveal its immanent dialectic structure. On the one hand science communication is a major driver for the success of neuroscience. It allows other disciplines to access the latest findings in Neuroscience fairly easy and adapt them for their own theories. Additionally it enables Neuroscience to enter a productive dialogue with other disciplines and profit from their knowledge. On the other hand, the strong focus on the popularisation of scientific knowledge has a deep impact on the process of knowledge creation within the laboratory itself. There is a tendency to engage in research projects that are promising not with regards to the possible scientific findings but with regards to their later popularisation and communication. This trend is not limited to the selection of certain topics but also influences the way research is conducted in the laboratory.

The argumentation is based on a documentary analysis as well as extensive field work and interviews I have conducted in three neuroscience laboratories in New York, NY and Frankfurt, Germany.

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Public Communication of Science and Technology

 

The impact of science communication on the scientific field
The case of neuroscience

Torsten Heinemann   Department of Social Sciences, Goethe University

The field of neuroscience has been one of the most prominent and active scientific disciplines in science communication, in recent years. It almost seems to be a roll model for science communication in the last decade. Research on the public communication of neuroscience has been mostly focussing on the quality and standards of the popularisation of scientific knowledge or the interpretation and understanding of neuroscience by the public. The importance of science communication for the field of neuroscience and its relevance for the raise and professionalization of the academic discipline have long been neglected, though.

I will argue that the reason for the growing prominence of the brain and the dominance of Neuroscience within the academy and beyond is based on the neuroscience practice to consequently popularise scientific knowledge and make it available to other scientific disciplines as well as to the public. Hence, I aim to analyse this practice and to reveal its immanent dialectic structure. On the one hand science communication is a major driver for the success of neuroscience. It allows other disciplines to access the latest findings in Neuroscience fairly easy and adapt them for their own theories. Additionally it enables Neuroscience to enter a productive dialogue with other disciplines and profit from their knowledge. On the other hand, the strong focus on the popularisation of scientific knowledge has a deep impact on the process of knowledge creation within the laboratory itself. There is a tendency to engage in research projects that are promising not with regards to the possible scientific findings but with regards to their later popularisation and communication. This trend is not limited to the selection of certain topics but also influences the way research is conducted in the laboratory.

The argumentation is based on a documentary analysis as well as extensive field work and interviews I have conducted in three neuroscience laboratories in New York, NY and Frankfurt, Germany.

A copy of the full paper has not yet been submitted.

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