Diverse studies and surveys reveal the modest increase in the participation of scientists in science communication and public engagement during recent times. Some of them also examine the practices and attitudes of scientists to the public communication of science across countries, aiming to find cultural differences or significant variances that can help to encourage the activity. The evidence shows that the position does differ much between countries: for the vast majority of scientists, public science communication is viewed as altruistic and not as an important part of their academic life. Most of the reports that examine the views and experiences of scientists are quantitative in nature, obtained through surveys by mail or online questionnaires and with intrinsic methodological limitations. Although, they have achieved significant results, these studies did not include in their analysis the specific environments and contexts in which the groups of scientists surveyed were connected to national, regional or institutional policies on the public communication of science, which might have had an influence on their participation. A relevant example of this influence is the world celebration “the Year of Physics”, in 2005, which changed positively the stance of several research institutes regarding public communication activities. The present empirical research seeks to contribute the qualitative analysis of scientists’ public communication attitudes and the influences affecting their public engagements. The research was carried out between May 2008 and May 2009 in 5 European research centres involved in nanotechnology and materials science; FHI, Berlin, Germany; CEMES, Toulouse, France; ISMN, Bologna, Italy; CSME, Edinburgh, United Kingdom and DIPC, Donostia-San Sebastian, Spain. The study implied face to face interviews with 112 scientists and 9 national and local Public Relations and Press Officers of the relevant institutes, as well as observations of the public communications activities and interactions occurring in the centres. The quantitative and qualitative results cover the following categories: scientists’ representation on public science engagement; audiences and activities, barriers to science communication; training and demand; and incentives for science communication. The results elicit a discussion of the statement by the Royal Society Survey (2006), about the marginal influence of external institutions on scientists’ attitudes.

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Public Communication of Science and Technology

 

European scientists’ public communication attitudes
A cross-national quantitative and qualitative empirical study of scientists’ views and experiences and the institutional, local and national influences determining their public engagement activities

Claudia Escutia   Conacyt (Mexico) & University of the Basque Country (Spain)

Diverse studies and surveys reveal the modest increase in the participation of scientists in science communication and public engagement during recent times. Some of them also examine the practices and attitudes of scientists to the public communication of science across countries, aiming to find cultural differences or significant variances that can help to encourage the activity. The evidence shows that the position does differ much between countries: for the vast majority of scientists, public science communication is viewed as altruistic and not as an important part of their academic life. Most of the reports that examine the views and experiences of scientists are quantitative in nature, obtained through surveys by mail or online questionnaires and with intrinsic methodological limitations. Although, they have achieved significant results, these studies did not include in their analysis the specific environments and contexts in which the groups of scientists surveyed were connected to national, regional or institutional policies on the public communication of science, which might have had an influence on their participation. A relevant example of this influence is the world celebration “the Year of Physics”, in 2005, which changed positively the stance of several research institutes regarding public communication activities. The present empirical research seeks to contribute the qualitative analysis of scientists’ public communication attitudes and the influences affecting their public engagements. The research was carried out between May 2008 and May 2009 in 5 European research centres involved in nanotechnology and materials science; FHI, Berlin, Germany; CEMES, Toulouse, France; ISMN, Bologna, Italy; CSME, Edinburgh, United Kingdom and DIPC, Donostia-San Sebastian, Spain. The study implied face to face interviews with 112 scientists and 9 national and local Public Relations and Press Officers of the relevant institutes, as well as observations of the public communications activities and interactions occurring in the centres. The quantitative and qualitative results cover the following categories: scientists’ representation on public science engagement; audiences and activities, barriers to science communication; training and demand; and incentives for science communication. The results elicit a discussion of the statement by the Royal Society Survey (2006), about the marginal influence of external institutions on scientists’ attitudes.

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

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