Science Communication

Sharon Dunwoody

in Communication

ISBN: 9780199756841
Published online February 2011 | | DOI:
Science Communication

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Science-communication scholarship focuses on the hows, whys, and impacts of science messages aimed at nonscientific audiences. This popular audience emphasis distinguishes science communication from technical communication, which privileges audiences who work within scientific disciplines and who can negotiate the languages relevant to those disciplines. Science communication, in contrast, assumes an audience without expertise and, importantly, without a priori interest in the topic at hand. Thus, the field places great emphasis on aspects of messages that explain complex concepts and processes, that lure audiences through narrative—both verbal and visual—and that attend to the complex interplay of evidence with other variables that influence lay audiences’ understanding of such things as controversial science issues. Since most audiences are quite removed from the scientific arena, this field has invested heavily in studying the role of mediated science messages—those narratives carried in mass media channels such as newspapers, television, radio, and now the Internet. That, in turn, has led to a large literature on the nature of relationships among the primary actors in the generation of those messages: scientists and information providers such as science journalists. In addition, the sustained global investment in science has led scientists and societies at large to problematize science literacy, and that has catalyzed much research on the effects of popularized science messages on individuals’ knowledge, attitudes, and (rarely) behaviors. The sections that follow will focus on research that speaks to these issues. This entry tries to avoid studies of environmental or health communication, despite the obvious overlap. It also avoids book chapters, which are harder for users to access. The entry also includes a number of important products generated by scholars outside of the United States but, regretfully, does not include work published in languages other than English. Rather than chop the literature into “hot topics” (i.e., nanotechnology, genetically modified food, stem cells), this entry categorizes by concepts and processes.

Article.  9096 words. 

Subjects: Communication Studies

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