When PCST2012 finished in Florence the last speaker made a call to investigate some of the white spots on the map of science communication research. In his presentation Rich Borchelts main point was that researchers keep looking for the same kind of things. Now is a good time for start doing something new, he said, and present the ‘new and different’ at PCST in Brazil 2014. This is what this paper is doing. By investigating the similarities and differences between the theoretical field of public relations on one hand and public understanding of science on the other, this paper offers a new perspective to the field of science communication research. We may thereby be able to understand the growing amount of research news releases from universities as both an activity that ‘supports the university as a business’ (funding, recruiting students and researcher etc.) and an activity that contributes to educating the public. Research in PR is not new, nor is the critique of PR activities of the universities. In 2013 more than 1600 research news releases were uploaded monthly at EurekAlert, and this number is growing and so is the number of universities from different countries using the platform. That research news releases increasingly are directed at an international audience means that we cannot continue explaining the science communication activities of the universities as directed towards local audiences and focused on a national context like most of the previous PUS research has done. This calls for adding new theoretical perspectives to the research in science communication. By using Van der Sanden and Meijmans understanding of science communication as an activity that both can be described by its form and its function this paper argues that an extra dimension should be added to their model. They talk about function, modality and instruments. This means that a research news release can be seen as an instrument, promoting the research as a modality and public understanding of science as a function of the communication. Besides ‘public understanding’ they operate with three other functions: ’public awereness of’, ’public engagement with’ og ’public participation in’ science. To study the growing PR activity from the universities this paper shows how this can be done by including a new fifth function - ‘support of the university as a business’. This function is included by using Grunig and Hunts four models of Public Relations and the mixed motives model.

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 [PCST]
PCST Network

Public Communication of Science and Technology

 

Business as usual or new reasons and means for communicating science?

Charlotte Autzen   University of Southern Denmark

When PCST2012 finished in Florence the last speaker made a call to investigate some of the white spots on the map of science communication research. In his presentation Rich Borchelts main point was that researchers keep looking for the same kind of things. Now is a good time for start doing something new, he said, and present the ‘new and different’ at PCST in Brazil 2014. This is what this paper is doing. By investigating the similarities and differences between the theoretical field of public relations on one hand and public understanding of science on the other, this paper offers a new perspective to the field of science communication research. We may thereby be able to understand the growing amount of research news releases from universities as both an activity that ‘supports the university as a business’ (funding, recruiting students and researcher etc.) and an activity that contributes to educating the public. Research in PR is not new, nor is the critique of PR activities of the universities. In 2013 more than 1600 research news releases were uploaded monthly at EurekAlert, and this number is growing and so is the number of universities from different countries using the platform. That research news releases increasingly are directed at an international audience means that we cannot continue explaining the science communication activities of the universities as directed towards local audiences and focused on a national context like most of the previous PUS research has done. This calls for adding new theoretical perspectives to the research in science communication. By using Van der Sanden and Meijmans understanding of science communication as an activity that both can be described by its form and its function this paper argues that an extra dimension should be added to their model. They talk about function, modality and instruments. This means that a research news release can be seen as an instrument, promoting the research as a modality and public understanding of science as a function of the communication. Besides ‘public understanding’ they operate with three other functions: ’public awereness of’, ’public engagement with’ og ’public participation in’ science. To study the growing PR activity from the universities this paper shows how this can be done by including a new fifth function - ‘support of the university as a business’. This function is included by using Grunig and Hunts four models of Public Relations and the mixed motives model.

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

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