There has been an ongoing search for answers with regards to the expected contribution of online public communication to support political engagement and citizen participation, particularly in the field of science and technology (S&T) policies, which often have to deal with complex, contentious issues, such as sustainability. Research questions arise from the gaps in empirical evidence concerning the relevance of the information available on the web portals, to the potential impact of these portals on the strengthening of citizenship and public participation in decision-making. Questions include: a) whether the public administration has benefited from the potential of digital communications tools to increase transparency and accountability; b) whether the available information has enough depth and breadth to help citizens assess policy implications; c) whether science communication has been unequivocal enough to clarify individual and collective responsibilities, or at the very least, the complexities involved. The final question is especially relevant within S&T policy-making, if looked at through a political ecology lens, where the outcomes depend on intense synergies between diverse political, social and economic actors. This paper presents the results of research aimed at making a contribution to address these issues. We assessed the information on science and technology policies available on the Brazilian government official website (www.brasil.gov.br) by means of a content analysis guided by 14 categories (prior challenges, diagnostics, objectives, goals, current resources, current actions, planned resources, planned actions, efficiency, efficacy, impact/effectiveness, citizen satisfaction and equality). The analysis of a sample of 62 web pages detected the existence of about 26% of the requisite information for a full characterization of a S&T policy, as established by the theoretical and methodological assumptions of our research. We interpreted this result using systems thinking, an approach which allows us to consider the Brazilian government as a subsystem within the larger system of Brazilian society, and the government‘s attempts at S&T communication through its web portals as a way of influencing the larger social system. Systems thinking has allowed us to evaluate whether the various social actors’ concerns have been addressed by the official web portal and recommend improvements for future S&T communications.

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Public Communication of Science and Technology

 

Science communication on the Brazilian government web portal
Assessing information on policies through systems thinking

Danilo Rothberg   Sao Paulo State University, Brazil

Andrea Berardi   The Open University, United Kingdom

There has been an ongoing search for answers with regards to the expected contribution of online public communication to support political engagement and citizen participation, particularly in the field of science and technology (S&T) policies, which often have to deal with complex, contentious issues, such as sustainability. Research questions arise from the gaps in empirical evidence concerning the relevance of the information available on the web portals, to the potential impact of these portals on the strengthening of citizenship and public participation in decision-making. Questions include: a) whether the public administration has benefited from the potential of digital communications tools to increase transparency and accountability; b) whether the available information has enough depth and breadth to help citizens assess policy implications; c) whether science communication has been unequivocal enough to clarify individual and collective responsibilities, or at the very least, the complexities involved. The final question is especially relevant within S&T policy-making, if looked at through a political ecology lens, where the outcomes depend on intense synergies between diverse political, social and economic actors. This paper presents the results of research aimed at making a contribution to address these issues. We assessed the information on science and technology policies available on the Brazilian government official website (www.brasil.gov.br) by means of a content analysis guided by 14 categories (prior challenges, diagnostics, objectives, goals, current resources, current actions, planned resources, planned actions, efficiency, efficacy, impact/effectiveness, citizen satisfaction and equality). The analysis of a sample of 62 web pages detected the existence of about 26% of the requisite information for a full characterization of a S&T policy, as established by the theoretical and methodological assumptions of our research. We interpreted this result using systems thinking, an approach which allows us to consider the Brazilian government as a subsystem within the larger system of Brazilian society, and the government‘s attempts at S&T communication through its web portals as a way of influencing the larger social system. Systems thinking has allowed us to evaluate whether the various social actors’ concerns have been addressed by the official web portal and recommend improvements for future S&T communications.

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

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