chapter  3
15 Pages

Public understanding of science

Popularisation, perceptions and publics
WithJenni Metcalfe, Michelle Riedlinger

As a field of science communication activity and socio-cultural research, public understanding of science (PUS) still provides a useful paradigm for both practitioners and scholars. This chapter describes the evolution of PUS scholarship over the last 35 years, and its parallel with science communication policy and practice. We investigate PUS with relation to popularisation and concepts of science; perceptions and concepts of understanding publics; and publics and how they are constructed. While instrumental objectives still dominate the practice of PUS in all these domains, if PUS-style activities are implemented ethically, we argue they are useful for achieving desired science communication outcomes. PUS scholarship continues to provide important information to practitioners, especially in understanding the socio-cultural context of concerned publics. We conclude that when combined with participatory approaches, PUS approaches to science communication can help bring society and science closer together.