Efforts to promote public understanding of science, in an attempt to address science knowledge deficits, have been criticised vehemently. It is maintained, even at this PCST conference for example, that an in depth knowledge about scientific principles is not necessary for the public to interact with science. Communicating science in ways that foster public awareness (i.e. “an appreciation of the way science works”, as stated on the PCST website) is regarded, conversely, as a more realistic endeavour. The relative scopes of awareness versus understanding continue to be debated, where the latter is condemned, because it perpetuates a deficit model, and the former is allied to indefinite actions such as “participation” and “engagement”.

Science communication literature suggests, however, a possible interplay between understanding and awareness. For example, the AEIOU vowel analogy (i.e. Awareness, Enjoyment, Interest, Opinion-forming and Understanding), defines understanding as a developed comprehension of scientific principles and what those principles imply commonly. In that context, awareness is regarded as a prerequisite for understanding. Another model, the Personal Awareness of Science and Technology (i.e. PAST), proposes that it is possible to change individuals’ PAST through reflective experiences. It maintains that experiences which inform an individual’s PAST,by connecting with previous experiences, can enhance that individual’s scientific knowledge.

There is a lack of clarity, from a general science communication perspective, about the exact processes by which audiences progress from awareness to understanding. The roles of engagement and participation complemented by elements of ownership, belonging, enthusiasm and motivation, assume varied interpretations in different science communication models. This poster attempts to bridge this void by offering a model that describes the processes through which audiences’ transit from being scientifically aware, to developing comprehensive understandings of science. Engagement, in this context, is defined as active participation where, desirably, both the communicator of scientific information and the audience contribute as well as receive. The ensuing co-production process leads originally to awareness and ultimately to a sustainable scientific knowledge-base, which this poster describes as understanding.

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 [PCST]
PCST Network

Public Communication of Science and Technology

 

From public awareness to public understanding of science
A model

Sean Perera   The Australian National University

Efforts to promote public understanding of science, in an attempt to address science knowledge deficits, have been criticised vehemently. It is maintained, even at this PCST conference for example, that an in depth knowledge about scientific principles is not necessary for the public to interact with science. Communicating science in ways that foster public awareness (i.e. “an appreciation of the way science works”, as stated on the PCST website) is regarded, conversely, as a more realistic endeavour. The relative scopes of awareness versus understanding continue to be debated, where the latter is condemned, because it perpetuates a deficit model, and the former is allied to indefinite actions such as “participation” and “engagement”.

Science communication literature suggests, however, a possible interplay between understanding and awareness. For example, the AEIOU vowel analogy (i.e. Awareness, Enjoyment, Interest, Opinion-forming and Understanding), defines understanding as a developed comprehension of scientific principles and what those principles imply commonly. In that context, awareness is regarded as a prerequisite for understanding. Another model, the Personal Awareness of Science and Technology (i.e. PAST), proposes that it is possible to change individuals’ PAST through reflective experiences. It maintains that experiences which inform an individual’s PAST,by connecting with previous experiences, can enhance that individual’s scientific knowledge.

There is a lack of clarity, from a general science communication perspective, about the exact processes by which audiences progress from awareness to understanding. The roles of engagement and participation complemented by elements of ownership, belonging, enthusiasm and motivation, assume varied interpretations in different science communication models. This poster attempts to bridge this void by offering a model that describes the processes through which audiences’ transit from being scientifically aware, to developing comprehensive understandings of science. Engagement, in this context, is defined as active participation where, desirably, both the communicator of scientific information and the audience contribute as well as receive. The ensuing co-production process leads originally to awareness and ultimately to a sustainable scientific knowledge-base, which this poster describes as understanding.

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

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