PCST Network

Public Communication of Science and Technology


What can science communicators learn from national public opinion surveys

John BesleyMichigan State University. United States


  • Martin BauerLondon School of Economics   United Kingdom
  • Luisa MassaraniFundação Oswaldo Cruz   Brazil
  • Julia MetagUniversity of Münster   Germany
What can science communicators learn from national public opinion surveys?

Public attitudes and perceptions towards science and technology (S&T) are important for a wide range of actors – science communicators, policy makers, scientists and many others. A number of countries therefore have regular S&T public opinion surveys. The proposed panel will bring together researchers involved in four such projects from different parts of the world – Switzerland, Brazil, the United Kingdom, and the United States — to discuss what role their national survey plays in thinking about science communication in their countries.

The four countries were chosen because they represent different contexts and models and, thus, contrasting cases from which to learn. The Swiss project is a foundation funded, multi-year project based at a university and designed to address practical and theoretical questions. The Brazilian surveys are conducted by public sector organizations with a large role played by communication researchers. In contrast, the American survey is conducted on behalf of a federal advisory group with raw data that is immediately made public as part of a long-running national social science data source (the General Social Survey).

Panel participants will briefly share the rationale behind their survey programs, as well as their perceptions of strengths and limitations. Afterwards, the discussion will be opened to other meeting participants who are invited to share their experiences, perceptions, and hopes for national-level survey projects. The goal for the panel is to enable researchers interested in these types of projects to better design and use the data collected. Some key questions that we will pose to stimulate the discussion include: What are the current benefits and challenges? Are these surveys worth the resources? Who should conduct these surveys (e.g., academics, government, etc.)?  What should be the focus? What are the advantages of coordination versus independence?

The author has not yet submitted a copy of the full paper.

Category: Roundtable discussion
Theme: Transformation