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Research and projects

In general, I try to document to the ways that public communication of science is fundamental to the process of producing reliable knowledge about the natural world. When I can, I contribute to that process. Some of my work is historical, some of it deals with contemporary media issues, and some of it deals with learning science in informal environments (including assessing efforts to facilitate that learning). Most recently, I’ve tried to contribute to broader discussions of public engagement in science.

To see what others think of my work, try looking at my Google Scholar profile. For a more complete list of my publications, you can look at my Publications page.

Historical analysis

My core interest is in historical analysis of public communication of science and technology (with the caveat that my definition of “history” includes anything in this morning’s news).  A few examples:

  • History of “public understanding of science” in America. This was my dissertation (summarized in Lewenstein 1992 in the list below), and led to a few articles:
    1. Lewenstein, Bruce V. (1989). Magazine Publishing and Popular Science After World War II. American Journalism, 6(4), 218-234.
    2. Lewenstein, Bruce V. (1992). The Meaning of ‘Public Understanding of Science’ in the United States After World War II. Public Understanding of Science, 1(1), 45-68.
    3. Lewenstein, Bruce V. (1993). NASA and the Public Understanding of Space Science. Journal of the British Interplanetary Society, 46, 251-254.
  • The history of “cold fusion.”  This was the 1989 claim that two electrochemists had found a way to produce nuclear fusion at room temperature.  Rejected by many scientists as counter to the laws of physics, the claim engendered a scientific subcommunity that continues to this day. The most important outcome of my work was the creation of the Cornell Cold Fusion Archive, a collection of materials available to all researchers. My own publications include:
    1. Lewenstein, Bruce V. (1991). Preserving Data About the Knowledge Creation Process: Developing an Archive on the Cold Fusion Controversy. Knowledge: Creation, Diffusion & Utilization, 13(1), 78-85.
    2. Lewenstein, Bruce V. (1992). Cold Fusion and Hot History. Osiris, 2nd series, 7, 135-163.
    3. Lewenstein, Bruce V. (1995). Do Public Electronic Bulletin Boards Help Create Scientific Knowledge?: The Cold Fusion Case. Science, Technology, & Human Values, 29(2), 123-149.
    4. Lewenstein, Bruce V. (1995). From Fax to Facts: Communication in the Cold Fusion Saga. Social Studies of Science, 25(3), 403-436.
  • Public Perceptions and Constructions of the Y2K Problem. This project used innovative technology to collect television references from mid-1999 through January 2000 to the “Y2K” or “Millenium Bug” problem. The archive of media clips is available for other researchers to use. The project was conceived and run by then-STS graduate student (now Program Director for Digital Scholarship at the Sloan Foundation) Josh Greenberg, with funding from the U.S. National Science Foundation.
  • History of science books since World War II. A historical analysis of the place of books in science communication. The version here is a draft of the chapter published in the 5-volume History of the Book in America series.
  • The Monarch butterfly as a scientific and cultural construction. I was part of a team looking at the Monarch. One publication to which I contributed:
    • Gustafsson, Karin M., Agrawal, Anurag A., Lewenstein, Bruce V., & Wolf, Steven. (2015). The Monarch Butterfly through Time and Space: The Social Construction of an Icon. BioScience, 65(6), 612-622. doi: 10.1093/biosci/biv045.

Work on contemporary media

Throughout the 2000s, with several students and colleagues, I spent time looking at contemporary media coverage and other aspects of the public presence of emerging technologies (or emerging technoscience, if you prefer), especially comparisons between media coverage and public opinion. Some of our publications looked at biotechnology and nanotechnology. A few key cites:

  1. Brossard, Dominique, Scheufele, Dietram, Kim, Eunkyung, & Lewenstein, Bruce V. (2009). Religiosity as a Perceptual Filter: Examining Processes of Opinion Formation about Nanotechnology. Public Understanding of Science, 18(5), 546-558. doi: published online 1 Oct 2008, doi:10.1177/0963662507087304,
  2. Lee, Chul-Joo, Scheufele, Dietram A., & Lewenstein, Bruce V. (2005). Public Attitudes toward Emerging Technologies: Examining the Interactive Effects of Cognitions and Affect on Public Attitudes toward Nanotechnology. Science Communication, 27(2), 240-267. doi: 10.1177/1075547005281474
  3. Lewenstein, Bruce, Radin, Joanna, & Diels, Janie. (2007). Nanotechnology in the media: A preliminary analysis. In Mihail C. Roco & William Sims Bainbridge (Eds.), Nanotechnology: Societal Implications II: Individual Perspectives (pp. 258-265). Dordrecht: Springer.
  4. Lewenstein, Bruce V. (2001). Expertise in the Media. Social Studies of Science, 31(3), 441-444.
  5. Lewenstein, Bruce V. (2005). Nanotechnology and the Public (introduction to special issue). Science Communication, 27(2), 169-174.
  6. Lewenstein, Bruce V. (2005). What counts as a “social and ethical issue” in nanotechnology? Hyle: International Journal for the Philosophy of Chemistry, 11(1), 5-18.
  7. Nisbet, Matthew C., & Lewenstein, Bruce V. (2002). Biotechnology and the American Media: The Policy Process and the Elite Press, 1970 to 1999. Science Communication, 23(4), 359-391. doi: 10.1177/107554700202300401
  8. Scheufele, Dietram A., & Lewenstein, Bruce V. (2005). The public and nanotechnology: How citizens make sense of emerging technologies. Journal of Nanoparticle Research, 7(6), 659-667.
  9. Laslo, E., Baram-Tsabari, A., & Lewenstein, B. V. (2011). A Growth Medium for the Message: Online Science Journalism Affordances for Exploring Public Discourse of Science and Ethics. Journalism: Theory, Practice & Criticism, 12(7), 847-870, DOI: 10.1177/1464884911412709

Another thread in this work looks at training for science communication:

  1. Baram-Tsabari, Ayelet, & Lewenstein, Bruce V. (2013). Assessing scientists’ written skills in public communication of science. Science Communication, 35(1), 56-85, doi: 10.1177/1075547012440634.

Evaluation of science outreach

In the 1990s and 2000s, I became involved in a number of projects designing and evaluating contemporary science outreach projects. Many of these projects involved “citizen science,” especially at the Cornell Laboratory of Ornithology.  Much of the work was done through my consulting company, Seavoss Associates Inc.  But a few publications did emerge:

  1. Brossard, Dominique, Lewenstein, Bruce V., & Bonney, Rick. (2005). Scientific Knowledge and Attitude Change: The Impact of a Citizen Science Project. International Journal of Science Education, 27(9), 1099-1121.
  2. Phillips, Tina, Lewenstein, Bruce V., & Bonney, Rick. (2006). A Case Study of Citizen Science. In Donghong Cheng, Jenni Metcalfe & Bernard Schiele (Eds.), At the Human Scale: International Practices in Science Communication (pp. 317-334). Beijing, China: Science Press.

In this area, I should include my work on the U.S. National Research Council committee on Learning Science in Informal Environments, published in 2009 as

  1. Bell, Philip, Lewenstein, Bruce V., Shouse, Andrew, & Feder, Michael (Eds.). (2009). Learning Science in Informal Environments: People, Places, and Pursuits. Washington, DC: National Academies Press. [It is available as a free download from the NAP.]

Public engagement in science

Finally, a recent strain of my work has looked at “public engagement in science,” with particular attention to the multiple meanings of that term, including “citizen science.”  Some outcomes include:

  1. McCallie, Ellen, Bell, Larry, Lohwater, Tiffany, Falk, John, Lehr, Jane H., Lewenstein, Bruce V., Needham, Cynthia, & Wiehe, Ben. (2009). Many Experts, Many Audiences: Public Engagement with Science and Informal Science Education.  A CAISE Inquiry Group Report (pp. 83). Washington, DC: Center for Advancement of Informal Science Education. [free download]
  2. Brossard, Dominique, & Lewenstein, Bruce V. (2010). A Critical Appraisal of Models of Public Understanding of Science: Using Practice to Inform Theory. In LeeAnn Kahlor & Patricia Stout (Eds.), Communicating Science: New Agendas in Communication (pp. 11-39). New York: Routledge.  [A note about this paper: An earlier version has circulated in manuscript form–for example, here–for many years, and has been cited as “Lewenstein 2003” or “Lewenstein 2004,” with the title “Models of Science Communication.”  The cite here is the formal publication.]
  3. Lewenstein, Bruce V. (initiator). (2012-). Wiki page: Public Engagement in Science, from
  4. Shirk, Jennifer L., Ballard, Heidi L., Wilderman, Candie C., Phillips, Tina, Wiggins, Andrea, Jordan, Rebecca, McCallie, Ellen, Minarchek, Matthew, Lewenstein, Bruce V., Krasny, Marianne E., Bonney, Rick. (2012). Public Participation in Scientific Research: A Framework for Intentional Design. Ecology and Society, 17(2), 29-48. doi: 10.5751/ES-04705-170229
  5. Lewenstein, Bruce V. (2015). Identifying what matters: Science education, science communication, and democracy. Journal of Research on Science Teaching, 52(2), 253-262. doi: 10.1002/tea.21201.
  6. Cooper, Caren B., & Lewenstein, Bruce V. (2016). Two meanings of citizen science. In D. Cavalier & E. B. Kennedy (Eds.), The Rightful Place of Science: Citizen Science (pp. 51-62). Tempe, AZ: Consortium for Science, Policy & Outcomes.
  7. Lewenstein, Bruce V. (2016). Editorial: Can we understand citizen science? [special issue on citizen science]. JCOM: Journal of Science Communication, 14(4), online only at


[Last update: 22 June 2016]