This study shows that scientists‘ attitudes toward the social sciences plays a role in their perception of how people form attitudes toward nanotechnology. With science becoming increasingly complex, effective communication of science is more important than ever. Central to any communication process is an understanding of the intended audience, including their attitude toward the issue at hand and how they came to form that attitude. Scientists are key players in science communication, and many tend to think that knowledge is a major influence in the formation of lay individuals’ attitudes toward science, an idea called the “knowledge deficit model.” However, communication research shows that value predispositions and cues from the media (among other explanatory variables) are stronger predictors of public attitudes toward science than knowledge. Through a survey of full time, tenure-track and tenured scientists at an R1 university, I investigate the extent to which scientists adhere to the knowledge deficit model when thinking about how non-scientists form attitudes towards nanotechnology. The data was analyzed using hierarchical regression. A positive attitude toward the social sciences predicts moving away from the knowledge deficit model; that is, the more positive a scientists‘ attitude toward the social sciences, the more likely they are to move away from the knowledge deficit model. These findings strongly support furthering the incorporation of empirical social science research into any program with the goal of improving scientists’ interaction and communication with non-scientists. Future research may include further investigating the role that scientists’ attitudes toward social sciences play in relation to their adherence, or lack of adherence, to the deficit model.

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Predicting adherence to the deficit model
Research i scientists‘ perceptions of how lay individuals form attitudes toward nanotechnology

Molly Simis   University of Wisconsin-Madison, United States

This study shows that scientists‘ attitudes toward the social sciences plays a role in their perception of how people form attitudes toward nanotechnology. With science becoming increasingly complex, effective communication of science is more important than ever. Central to any communication process is an understanding of the intended audience, including their attitude toward the issue at hand and how they came to form that attitude. Scientists are key players in science communication, and many tend to think that knowledge is a major influence in the formation of lay individuals’ attitudes toward science, an idea called the “knowledge deficit model.” However, communication research shows that value predispositions and cues from the media (among other explanatory variables) are stronger predictors of public attitudes toward science than knowledge. Through a survey of full time, tenure-track and tenured scientists at an R1 university, I investigate the extent to which scientists adhere to the knowledge deficit model when thinking about how non-scientists form attitudes towards nanotechnology. The data was analyzed using hierarchical regression. A positive attitude toward the social sciences predicts moving away from the knowledge deficit model; that is, the more positive a scientists‘ attitude toward the social sciences, the more likely they are to move away from the knowledge deficit model. These findings strongly support furthering the incorporation of empirical social science research into any program with the goal of improving scientists’ interaction and communication with non-scientists. Future research may include further investigating the role that scientists’ attitudes toward social sciences play in relation to their adherence, or lack of adherence, to the deficit model.

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