Recent studies show that scientists’ views towards communicating research and expertise in the public media have become more positive. These studies have focused mainly on the science-media interface, and there is a need to explore more broadly how scientists view different aspects and arenas of science communication and evaluate public expertise. This paper is based on a case study of a Finnish research programme on nutrition food and health. One of the goals of programme was “to disseminate information on research results and to meet the information needs of society on a healthy, safe and balanced diet”. The topic of the research programme provides an interesting case to study public communication activities and scientists’ views on them. According to various studies, health and medicine is the most popular science-related topic in the news media. In the last decades, healthy living and well-being have been increasingly connected to food and eating habits. The analysis in this paper is based on a questionnaire made for project leaders (N=28) in spring 2012, and data gathered from the websites of the projects. The communicative activities documented by the projects show an interesting variety of ways in dealing with the media and wider society. This spectrum is reflected also in the respondent’s views of public communication. These views can be divided into four different notions of science communication. These notions reflect different views of expertise in the public arenas. The first notion of science communication sees it mainly in terms of communication between experts. The main target group for communication is other experts, not the general public. The second notion of science communication could be labeled as outsourced science communication. In the internal distribution of work science communication was left to others, such as industrial partners of the project. The third notion defines science communication in terms of policy-orientated communication: the main focus is policy makers and public authorities. Finally, the fourth notion focuses on communicating expertise in the news media. This view of science communication implies close contacts with the news media and a broad view of public expertise.

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Public Communication of Science and Technology

 

Scientist's views on expertise and science communication

Esa Väliverronen   University of Helsinki

Recent studies show that scientists’ views towards communicating research and expertise in the public media have become more positive. These studies have focused mainly on the science-media interface, and there is a need to explore more broadly how scientists view different aspects and arenas of science communication and evaluate public expertise. This paper is based on a case study of a Finnish research programme on nutrition food and health. One of the goals of programme was “to disseminate information on research results and to meet the information needs of society on a healthy, safe and balanced diet”. The topic of the research programme provides an interesting case to study public communication activities and scientists’ views on them. According to various studies, health and medicine is the most popular science-related topic in the news media. In the last decades, healthy living and well-being have been increasingly connected to food and eating habits. The analysis in this paper is based on a questionnaire made for project leaders (N=28) in spring 2012, and data gathered from the websites of the projects. The communicative activities documented by the projects show an interesting variety of ways in dealing with the media and wider society. This spectrum is reflected also in the respondent’s views of public communication. These views can be divided into four different notions of science communication. These notions reflect different views of expertise in the public arenas. The first notion of science communication sees it mainly in terms of communication between experts. The main target group for communication is other experts, not the general public. The second notion of science communication could be labeled as outsourced science communication. In the internal distribution of work science communication was left to others, such as industrial partners of the project. The third notion defines science communication in terms of policy-orientated communication: the main focus is policy makers and public authorities. Finally, the fourth notion focuses on communicating expertise in the news media. This view of science communication implies close contacts with the news media and a broad view of public expertise.

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