Science communication, in essence, deals with informing the public about new theories, discoveries and understanding. People may have an interest in science for various reasons, or have little interest at all. In the past, media has been limited to certain methods of disseminating science – via newspapers, radio, television, word of mouth and so on. Nowadays, people with a vested interest in science can research for themselves efficiently online, and people with little interest in science can easily sidestep science websites.
This sidestepping is called “fragmentation”. In the past, watching the news may have exposed people to science alongside other stories; and flicking through the daily paper may have caused them to glance at a science headline and be enticed to read more.
Because of fragmentation found in new media outlets such as online news, blogs and podcasts, people may be less exposed to science news than previously, and only find what they actively search for. The article “Science communication reconsidered” addresses current issues for science communication and proposes some strategies to combat them.
The paper discusses the framing of a science message as a tool to incite the lay public to pay attention or become interested in a science topic.
“Frames are interpretative packages and storylines that help communicate why an issue might be a problem, who or what might be responsible and what should be done”.
A particular frame can mean the success or failure of the media to disseminate a science story, and can determine the amount of value the lay public will give to certain science research initiatives.
My question is: Why should the lay public care about science? If we are to succeed in disseminating science, there has to be a reason for people to want to listen. We have to appeal to a wide audience for science to gain support. People need a vested interest to care, and the message must be framed in light of their values.
The question of why the public should care about science can be viewed from a utility point of view. The public ought to be interested in science because it may become useful to them now, or in the future. It can also be considered as a question of truth. The public should be interested in science because it is a path for knowledge. Such as: evolution theories can help us find methods to explain the truth of our existence. Others may find science useful for the entertainment value – having a vibrant topic to discuss at their next dinner party.
The value of science depends upon the individual. Some people may not care about where they came from – and hence evolutionary science is of little consequence to them. Other people may not have a use for science information, and therefore ignore it. Others may have no desire for discussing science with their friends. The value I put on science is that I want to know more, I have a desire for knowledge and find science interesting. I also want to discover ‘truths’ and use science as a tool to help me.
Why do you think people ought to value science? And why do you value science in your own life? Are there any other reasons you think science is valuable that I haven’t mentioned?
Bubela, T., Nisbet, M. C., Borchelt, R., Brunger, F., Critchley, C., Einsiedel, E., et al. (2009). Science communication reconsidered. Nature Biotechnology, 27(6), 514-518.