PCST Network

Public Communication of Science and Technology


Scientists’ attitudes in consolidated and fragile science communication cultures

Noa Reis   Technion - Israel Institute of Technology, Haifa

Ayelet Baram-Tsabari   Technion - Israel Institute of Technology, Haifa

Hans Peter Peters   Forschungszentrum Jülich, Germany

Mejlgaard et al. (2012) clustered European countries as having a consolidated, developing or fragile 'science communication culture'. Here we compare scientists' attitudes in two countries with a similar level of high quality science, but different science communication culture: Germany (consolidated) and Israel (fragile). This comparison looks at scientists as key actors in the science communication arena, their attitudes and relations with other actors such as journalist, organizations and the public. An online survey was conducted among active scientists from natural sciences, engineering and life sciences using the same sampling and recruiting method in both countries. This yielded a sample of 464 Israeli and 975 German active scientists (response rate: 21% and 34%, respectively). The survey included a module focusing on scientists' perceptions and experience in science communication in general, and media contacts in particular, as well as their perceptions of the general public's ability to understand and evaluated scientific issues. A 'knowledge module' was developed by the authors in order to answer the question "how well do scientists know their audience's level of science knowledge?" This module was piloted only in Israel. The countries differ in many respects. For example, German scientists are more willing to spend time with journalists, and more of them don't consider it improper to initiate the contact with the media. German scientists are more willing than Israeli ones to communicate their work in accessible ways, using catchy and entertaining phrases, relating to everyday life. Most importantly - German scientists are more willing to use their expertise to criticize political decisions affecting society, or make practical suggestions for actions: 75% of the Germans vs. 46% of the Israelis. Other differences as well as profound similarities between the communities of scientists will be discussed in the context of the countries' development of science communication culture.

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