The National Science Foundation reported in 2006 that “although Amer icans express strong support for science and technology, most are not very well informed about these subjects. The public’s lack of knowledge about basic scientific facts and the scientific process can have far reaching impli cations” (NSF, 2006, p. 7.3). Such implications include the inability to evaluate scientific (and pseudoscientific) information that is presented daily by politicians, public health and environmental agencies, pharmaceutical companies, energy companies, journalists, bloggers, and medical prac titioners. Science topics du jour-all rife with myriad health and policy implications-include alternative fuel development, stem cell research, biotechnology, pharmaceutical risks, nanotechnology, climate change, and science education mandates legislated by state governments. As a result, it is becoming increasingly difficult for communication researchers to ignore the flashing red light that is low science literacy and limited public understanding of science. Of course, communication researchers have a lot to contribute in terms of exploring why literacy is low and how it can rise-but the potential for contribution doesn’t end there. They also stand poised to bring to the larger scientific endeavor an understanding of how communication works and doesn’t work, who matters in the exchange of knowledge and why, and what the public brings to that exchange-with an emphasis on the fact that they do bring some thing, and we better start recognizing what that something is. Thankfully, a fairly broad based body of research on science communi cation has been coalescing for about 25 years. Now more than ever, research institutions (Cornell, Florida, Georgia, Maryland, South Carolina,
Texas, Wisconsin, etc.) are producing scholars dedicated to investigating public understanding and communication of the science that encompasses human and environmental health and public policy. These scholars are making important connections among science communication, public health and public policy; the research they are producing represents such areas as environmental science communication, medical science communi cation, technology and communication, and a host of other areas that fall under the umbrella of science communication. As discussed in our preface, the purpose of this volume is to harness the momentum of the junior scholars who are now on the forefront, pushing the boundaries of science communication research further still. We see this volume as a handbook intended to appeal to practitioners and scholars alike-anyone who is concerned about or interested in the future of science and how communication is shaping and will continue to shape that future. In her thoughtful foreword, Sharon Dunwoody discusses the interdisci plinary richness of conducting communication research related to science. Here we would like to touch on yet another source of interdisciplinary richness that can be found in this book through its showcasing of scholars who are approaching communication research from varied social scientific and rhetorical research paradigms. Interdisciplinary research is a term being touted at many universities these days. But what does it really mean? For us, it meant embracing disparate research methods and paradigms to capture a more holistic picture of science communication. Scholarly texts that combine the work of social scientists and rhetori cians in one volume are not common; yet, we can think of no good reason for this division of communication scholarship. Still, the division exists and it is, regrettably, perpetuated in research training and execution. We assert that while quantitative and qualitative approaches must adhere to internal measures of consistency, neither the approaches nor insights of one should be closed to the other simply because rote orthodoxy dictates it. Thus, in some ways, this book issues a challenge to readers to reach outside their own disciplines and embrace the richness displayed in the varied ways in which our authors define and explore communication within the context of science. That said, the interdisciplinary nature of this book will likely confront some readers with terms and methods that are somewhat unfamiliar. However, one of the things our authors noted after the conference (see Preface) that preceded this book was that we have much more in common as scholars than our preconceived notions had allowed. Regardless of how we go about answering our research questions, in many cases, we are asking the same questions. When we are not, we are discovering new ways to ask them, yielding a larger and more accurate range of the answers we all seek. These chapters are each intended to inspire still more research ques tions, to help aspiring science communication scholars locate their own
creative and original research programs, and to help veteran science com munication scholars expand their existing programs such that they can more actively build interdisciplinary bridges. In its progressive pursuit of interdisciplinary research streams-of thinking outside methodological and theoretical boxes-the ultimate goal for this book is to inspire science com munication scholars (junior and senior) to set new standards for collabora tion not just for science communication, but for communication research in general. In Part I, “Merging Theory and Practice: Models and Frameworks,” we lead with a chapter by Dominique Brossard and Bruce Lewenstein in which the authors address whether practice can inform theory. The authors open with a discussion of four theoretical frameworks that have shaped the research on the public understanding of science, beginning with the public knowledge deficit model and leading up to the public par ticipation model. The authors then test whether actual outreach efforts can be mapped onto those four models, or whether a newer model is needed to capture how outreach is currently practiced. Five case studies drawn from 94 outreach programs related to the Human Genome Program were employed in this task. Results indicate that outreach proj ects tend to make use of mixed approaches that blend models, rather than gravitate toward any one well defined model. The chapter suggests that theoretical perspectives need to take into account the permeable boundaries between models and practice. In Chapter 2, Matthew Nisbet argues that there is nothing essentially unique about science policy debates when compared to other political con troversies-and that given this interpretative reality, scientists must strate gically “frame” their communications in a manner that connects with diverse audiences. By synthesizing past research, Nisbet is able to identify a consistent set of frames that appear over and over again in science policy debates. He then explains how this research might be transformed into an innovative public engagement strategy to be used by scientists, press officers, and their institutions. Such engagement strategies would remain true to the underlying science, but would draw extensively from audience research in order to design messages that are personally relevant and mean ingful to diverse publics. Nisbet draws on specific cases-nuclear energy, evolution, and climate change-to demonstrate the generalizable ways in which framing drives the dynamics of science controversies. Conceptual ization and identification of campaign strategies, media messages, and their influence, as well as lessons related to public engagement strategies are dis cussed-although these lessons are not without several important ethical and normative considerations. In Chapter 3, John Besley discusses past research on the social psychol ogy of justice as fairness. He then argues that this research provides a promising theoretical basis with which to study direct and mediated
engagement related to decision making about health and environmental risks. Justice as fairness is a concept posed by political philosopher John Rawls. While fairness has played an important role in science and risk research, most discussions of fairness fail to fully exploit social psychologi cal theory to help explain how people perceive decision making related to Rawls’ concept. The chapter outlines recent exploratory science communi cation research that explicitly uses a justice asfairness framework. This work argues that fairness perceptions-specifically sub dimensions of fair ness that address outcomes, procedures, interpersonal relations, and avail able information-are an important consequence of much official science communication. These perceptions of fairness result in outcomes such as satisfaction with decisions and perceptions of the legitimacy of authorities. Finally, areas where the justiceasfairness framework could enhance science and risk communication research and practice are discussed. In Chapter 4, Janas Sinclair and Barbara Miller focus on science infor mation that enters the public domain from corporate sources, particularly in the case of technology advocacy campaigns. Technology advocacy cam paigns are defined as attempts to persuade the public on issues related to science or technology with the goal of protecting an organization’s inter ests and defending its current and future business activities. Advertising and public relations are typically used to accomplish this persuasive task. This chapter addresses how audiences respond to and interpret such strate gic messages, and presents a theoretical model intended to explain public response to technology advocacy specifically. This model, which is based on the Persuasion Knowledge Model (Friestad & Wright, 1994), was developed through qualitative and quantitative research on audience per ceptions of technology advocacy campaigns for the coal and crop biotech nology industries. According to the model, persuasion depends on audience perceptions of industry accountability, audience trust in the sponsor of the campaign, and audience motives to identify with or critique the technology advocacy message. Research directions for empirical tests of the proposed relationships among variables in the model, as well as implications for designing effective corporate advocacy campaigns, are also discussed. Part I wraps up with a chapter by Bret Shaw in which the author dis cusses the intersections of social marketing and two temporally oriented social science models-Stages of Change and Diffusion of Innovations. Additional insights are drawn from the literature on persuasion and infor mation campaigns. The intent is to generate a framework for researchers, natural resource educators, and outreach professionals to more effectively promote sustainable environmental behaviors. Although these models have achieved ample attention in the health communication literature, they have not received sufficient consideration from communication researchers and practitioners focused on conserving the environment. This chapter directs attention to the potential role of temporally oriented models to assist in
audience segmentation efforts. The central argument made is that knowing where an audience segment is on a temporal basis, relative to that audi ence’s understanding and adoption of a new behavior, has implications for addressing: (a) individual segment members’ motivations, (b) perceived benefits and barriers, and (c) how to improve the likelihood of success for any social marketing campaign related to science communication. Part II of this volume, “Characterization and Meaning Making,” shifts our focus to research agendas emerging from the area of science rhetoric. These next several chapters offer a closer look at scientists and audiences, particularly the negotiation of meaning and the very creation of scientific knowledge. We lead this part of the book with a chapter by Lisa Keränen, who argues that the rhetorical concepts of personae, ethos and voice offer an analytical framework for the study of human character on display in scien tific controversies. Keränen explicates these concepts and then applies them to the case of Bernard Fisher-the renowned cancer researcher whose career was momentarily tarnished by scandal in the mid 1990s. Her retell ing of the Fisher controversy is as compelling as it is illustrative. The chapter argues that the three distinct personae-the swashbuckling revolu tionary, the reluctant apologist, and the beleaguered administratoremerged during the early months of the controversy. Together, these personae functioned to encourage policy outcomes focused on purging science of individual transgressions, while underplaying broader systemic reforms that could have addressed broader patient concerns. The chapter ultimately concludes that focusing on personae, ethos and voice provides a means of reconsidering the interrelatedness of character and knowledge, and of trust and truth in science based controversies involving scientists and members of various publics. In the end, the reader is left with two rewards: a promising analytical framework and the feeling that comes with having read a good story. In Chapter 7, John Lynch explores the topic of model organisms-par ticularly those that guide stem cell research. By casting a spotlight on the role of model organisms in the larger scientific endeavor, Lynch allows us to glimpse how such organisms shape the dynamic process of doing sci ence-from the lab, to discovery, to naming that discovery, and beyond. The chapter is guided by articulation theory and a three component schema for understanding science-one that delineates the material, social, and rhetorical aspects of scientific programs. The chapter uses the case of stem cell research to make three claims. The first claim is that communica tion is an essential component of scientific practice. The second claim is that the use of model organisms to define and organize stem cell research illustrates the roles of each component of the tripartite schema in articulat ing science. The third claim is that these three components of science can interfere with or complement each other, as will be evidenced by the
limitations exerted by the social/economic component of science on various concepts and definitions created by stem cell models. In this chapter, schol ars will glimpse how scientists connect the words “stem cell” to specific objects in the laboratory, thus altering the meaning and value of those words and the things related to them. In Chapter 8, Danielle Endres explores the clashes between science, culture, and spirituality that often emerge in politically charged public debates over policies such as intelligent design, human genomics, and nuclear waste. This chapter engages the question: Are scientific arguments and spiritually/culturally based arguments mutually exclusive? Using the Yucca Mountain high level nuclear waste siting controversy as a case study, this chapter focuses on how non credentialed non scientists simulta neously use both scientific claims and cultural/spiritual claims. In particu lar, arguments made by American Indian participants in the public comment period for the Yucca Mountain site authorization decision are analyzed. This chapter has implications for how public scientific contro versy is understood. Specifically, it (a) shifts our focus from the arguments of scientists to scientific arguments made by the public; (b) reveals the flu idity of boundaries between scientific and non scientific arguments in public scientific controversies; (c) has implications for public participation in environmental decision making; and (d) challenges misconceptions about the relationship between American Indian cultures and science. In Chapter 9, Kristen Swain examines environmental justice debates between industries and communities and how debates are framed by the media. She begins with a discussion of the tendency to build landfills and factories in areas where ethnic minorities and low income citizens live, which exposes residents to more pollution than the population as a whole. She then examines how industry rhetoric was framed in news coverage of such siting decisions during the 1990s, when the environmental justice movement first emerged and mobilized. Kohlberg’s (1973) theory of moral development and a stage model of social movements were used as frame works for analyzing dynamics between industries and the community. Content analysis of news stories indicated that coverage of commercial industries, new facilities, and early activism could be characterized pre conventional (less moral) rhetoric. Swain argues that industries did not make a consistent effort to involve activists as stakeholders until weak public pressure evolved into organized protest. At that turning point, pre conventional industry rhetoric, which reflected a disregard for citizens as stakeholders, evolved into post conventional rhetoric, which reflected greater willingness to work with citizens and transparently evaluate public risk. The chapter also maps this media coverage onto the first three stages of social movement development, to examine the nature of industry rheto ric within distinct and critical periods of grassroots activism. Overall, framing defined the environmental justice movement as a larger social
issue, interpreted causes of disease and disparity, provided moral evalua tions of disproportionate burden, and offered possible solutions. The implications of these findings are then discussed. Part III, “The Future,” addresses the challenges faced as colleges and universities of all sizes seek to address low levels of science literacy in their own communities. While science communication programs are becoming more common at large flagship universities, there still exists the need to serve populations that reside near the nation’s smaller state schools. In order to make real gains in training science communicators who can reach these populations, smaller schools across the country need to embrace the development of courses and programs that offer such training. In the sole chapter in Part III, Amy Pearce, Aldemaro Romero, and John Zibluk talk openly about the challenges they faced in implementing a science commu nication program at Arkansas State University-Jonesboro. ASU-Jonesboro is a state agricultural school serving the Arkansas Delta region, a section of the state with marked poverty. Enrollment at the university is approximately 10,000 undergraduate and 1,500 graduate stu dents. The Tobacco Settlement Proceeds Act of 2000 ushered in a new era for the university, including the inception of the collaborative Arkansas Biosciences Institute (ABI), a major research facility built to attract researchers, professors, and graduate students to that region of the country. In this chapter, these professors-one from journalism, one from biology, and one from psychology, offer a case study of how they came together against many odds to develop a successful science communication curriculum. Ultimately, their efforts were acknowledged by the Coalition for the Public Understanding of Science. The successes offered in this chapter, as well as the challenges, underscore the benefits of pooled resources and cross disciplinary pollination in the development of science communication education initiatives. In sum, the three part focus of this book allows scholars to sample the multiple paradigms and agendas that will play a role in shaping the future of science communication. These agendas map theory onto practice (and practice onto theory), explore the very identity of science and scientists, and confront the challenges of training the next generation of science com municators who will do their part to end the science illiteracy that plagues this nation. It was mentioned above that communication researchers stand poised to bring to the larger scientific endeavor an understanding of how communication works, who matters in the exchange of knowledge, and what the public brings to that exchange. This volume is a start. We chal lenge our readers to channel the energy within these chapters to build or continue to build their own research agendas as we all work togetheracross disciplines-to address these driving questions.