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Public Communication of Science & Technology: A Brief Introduction to Resources

For general information about science communication with the public, see the website of the International Network on Public Communication of Science and Technology (pcst.co).

Another excellent source of information is ISOTOPE: Informing Science Outreach & Public Engagement, operated by the Open University in the UK.

For more general resources on science communication that go beyond “public communication,” see www.scidev.net, which has a section on science publishing and an “e-guide” to science communication. Both are oriented toward developing countries, but apply to the whole world.

I frequently receive requests for information in two areas: courses and introductory readings (both for practical advice and for those studying science communication). I’ve put below a few preliminary lists of those items.

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Science Writing Courses

  • COMPASS, a science communication training group based in the United States, in 2013-2014 conducted a “landscape study” of science communication training opportunities (mainly for scientists who want to know more about science communication).  Overall information about the project is at http://compassblogs.org/gradscicomm/, and a page specifically listing training opportunities is at http://compassblogs.org/gradscicomm-list/.
  • The Science Communication program at Rhine-Waal University (Germany) in 2015 developed a new directory of science communication courses worldwide: www.scicommfinder.info.  While it is still a work-in-progress, it contains much useful information.
  • A list of training opportunities is on the ISOTOPE site referred to above.
  • I have found that a search on Google for “science journalism courses” or “science communication courses” also yields many useful links.
  • For many years, the Directory of science communication courses and programs in the United States was the best guide to courses. First compiled in the 1980s, and later updated and put online by Prof. Sharon Dunwoody at the University of Wisconsin-Madison, the directory was last updated in 2007, so unfortunately the information is getting dated.

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Practical advice

This section became so long it now has its own page.

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Introductory readings for those studying science communication

No list of books and readings in science communication is complete. But here is an initial set of suggestions for people interested in the field.

Introduction to the field

  • Bucchi, Massimiano, & Trench, Brian (Eds.). (2014). Handbook of Public Communication of Science and Technology (2nd ed.). London/New York: Routledge.

Conceptual overviews and classic readings

  • Broks, Peter. (1996). Media science before the Great War. New York: St. Martin’s Press. [A good historical overview, focused on the United Kingdom]
  • Gregory, J., & Miller, S. (1998). Science in Public: Communication, Culture, and Credibility. New York: Plenum. [A classic introduction to the field, a bit dated but still very useful]
  • Holliman, R., Thomas, J., Smidt, S., Scanlon, E., & Whitelegg, E. (Eds.). (2009). Practising Science Communication in the Information Age. New York: Oxford. [Prepared for a science communication course in the UK’s Open University]
  • Holliman, R., Whitelegg, E., Scanlon, E., Smidt, S., & Thomas, J. (Eds.). (2009). Investigating Science Communication in the Information Age: Implications for Public Engagement and Popular Media. New York: Oxford. [Prepared for a science communication course in the UK’s Open University]
  • Nelkin, D. (1995). Selling Science: How the Press Covers Science and Technology (rev. ed.). New York: W. H. Freeman. [A classic examination of science journalism, though now dated somewhat]
  • Nisbet, Matthew C., & Scheufele, Dietram. (2009). What’s next for science communication? Promising directions and lingering distractions. American Journal of Botany, 96(10), 1-12. [a nice summary of where the field was in the late 2000s]
  • House of Lords. 2000. Science and Society. London: UK House of Lords. (Available at http://www.parliament.the-stationery-office.co.uk/pa/ld199900/ldselect/ldsctech/38/3801.htm. See also government response at http://www.dti.gov.uk/scienceind/report3response.htm.) [A key text in the shift of focus from “the deficit model” to the “engagement model”]

Science museums

  • Chittenden, Dave, Graham Farmelo, and Bruce Lewenstein, eds. 2004. Creating Connections: Museums and the Public Understanding of Current Research. Walnut Creek, CA: Altamira Press
  • Falk, John H. and Lynn D. Dierking. 2000. Learning from Museums: Visitor Experiences and the Making of Meaning. American Association for State and Local History Book Series. Lanham, MD: Altamira Press.
  • Farmelo, Graham, and Janet Carding. 1997. Here and now: Contemporary science and technology in musuems and science centres. London: Science Museum.

Informal learning

  • Falk, John H. and Lynn D. Dierking. 2002. Lessons without limit : how free-choice learning is transforming education. Walnut Creek, CA ; Oxford: AltaMira Press.
  • Bell, P., Lewenstein, B. V., Shouse, A., & Feder, M. (Eds.). (2009). Learning Science in Informal Environments: People, Places, and Pursuits. Washington, DC: National Academies Press.

Public knowledge of and attitudes toward science

Every two years, the U.S. National Science Board includes a chapter on this topic in its “Science and Engineering Indicators” series.  These chapters often include comparative information about other countries as well.  The most recent edition is:

  • National Science Board. 2016. Science and Technology: Public Attitudes and Understanding. In Science & Engineering Indicators–2016. Washington, D.C.: U.S. Government Printing Office. (link to the download page)

The science of science communication

In recent years, several researchers have tried to bring together much of the research on science communication. This research was presented at U.S. National Academy of Sciences colloquia in 2012 and 2013. Papers from the 2012 symposium were published in:

  • Fischhoff, Baruch, & Scheufele, Dietram A. (Eds.). (2013). The Science of Science Communication (Papers reprinted from Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, vol. 110, suppl. 3, pp. 13696 and 14031-14110). Washington, DC: National Academy of Sciences. [link]

Papers from the 2013 symposium were also published in PNAS, vol. 11., suppl. 4, pp. 13583-13671 [link]

Videos of the presentations can be found through the colloquia websites:

  • Cicerone, Ralph J., Fischhoff, Baruch, Leshner, Alan, Schaal, Barbara, & Scheufele, Dietram. (2012). The Science of Science Communication — A Sackler Colloquium. [link]
  • Cicerone, Ralph J., Fischhoff, Baruch, Leshner, Alan, Schaal, Barbara, & Scheufele, Dietram. (2013). The Science of Science Communication II — A Sackler Colloquium. [link]

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Scholarly works

Finally, for those who wish to push deeper into the field: This section is a bit more eclectic, and is less (in fact, probably not at all) likely to be of interest to people just getting started in the field. But it includes books and articles in addition to those above that I’d be annoyed (for a variety of reasons) to discover that my graduate students don’t know about (those students — yes, I’m looking at you! — should also skim my CV; my students should know what I’ve written!). It’s in no particular order.

History of public understanding of science

  • Burnham, John. (1987). How Superstition Won and Science Lost: Popularizing Science and Health in the United States. New Brunswick, NJ: Rutgers University Press.
  • Cooter, Roger. 1984. The Cultural Meaning of Popular Science: Phrenology and the Organization of Consent in Nineteenth Century Britain. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.
  • LaFollette, M. C. (1990). Making Science Our Own: Public Images of Science, 1910-1955. Chicago: University of Chicago Press.
  • LaFollette, M. C. (2008). Science on the air : popularizers and personalities on radio and early television. Chicago: University of Chicago Press.
  • LaFollette, M. C. (2009). Scientific and Technical Publishing in the United States, 1880-1950. In A History of the Book in America (1880-1950) (Vol. 4, 1880-1950). Chapel Hill: University of North Carolina Press.
  • LaFollette, Marcel Chotkowski. (2012). Science on American Television: A History. Chicago: University of Chicago Press.
  • Lightman, Bernard V. (2007). Victorian popularizers of science : designing nature for new audiences. Chicago: University of Chicago Press.
  • 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.
  • Lewenstein, B. V. (2009). Science Books Since 1945. In D. P. Nord, J. S. Rubin & M. Schudson (Eds.), The Enduring Book: Print Culture in Postwar America (pp. 347-360). Chapel Hill: University of North Carolina Press.

Theory/conceptual approaches to public understanding of science

  • Bauer, M. W., Allum, N., & Miller, S. (2007). What can we learn from 25 years of PUS survey research? Liberating and expanding the agenda. Public Understanding of Science, 16(1), 79-95.
  • Cheng, D., Claessens, M., Gascoigne, T., Metcalfe, J., Schiele, B., & Shi, S. (Eds.). (2008). Communicating Science in Social Contexts: New Models, New Practices. Brussels: Springer, for the European Commission. [Overview articles]
  • Hilgartner, S. (1990). The Dominant View of Popularization: Conceptual Problems, Political Uses. Social Studies of Science, 20(3), 519-539.
  • Irwin, A. (1995). Citizen science : a study of people, expertise, and sustainable development. London ; New York: Routledge.
  • Lewenstein, Bruce V. 1995. From Fax to Facts: Communication in the Cold Fusion Saga. Social Studies of Science 25 (3):403-436.
  • Miller, Steve. (2001). Public understanding of science at the crossroads. Public Understanding of Science, 10(1), 115-120.
  • Schiele, Bernard, ed. 1994. When Science Becomes Culture: World Survey of Scientific Culture. Boucherville, Quebec: University of Ottawa Press.
  • Shinn, Terry, and Richard Whitley, eds. 1985. Expository Science: Forms and Functions of Popularisation. Vol. 9, Sociology of the Sciences. Dordrecht/Boston/Lancaster: D. Reidel.
  • Wynne, Brian. 1989. Sheep Farming After Chernobyl: A Case Study in Communicating Scientific Information. Environment Magazine 31 (2):10-15, 33-39.
  • Wynne, Brian. 1991. Knowledges in Context. Science, Technology & Human Values 16 (1):111-121.
  • Wynne, Brian (1995). Public Understanding of Science. In S. Jasanoff & G. E. Markle & J. C. Petersen & T. Pinch (Eds.), Handbook of Science and Technology Studies (pp. 361-388). Thousand Oaks, Ca.: Sage.
  • Ziman, John. 1991. Public Understanding of Science. Science, Technology & Human Values 16 (1 (Winter)):99-105.
  • Ziman, John. 1992. Not Knowing, Needing to Know, and Wanting to Know. In When Science Meets the Public, edited by B. V. Lewenstein. Washington: American Association for the Advancement of Science.

Science journalism

  • Bauer, Martin, & Bucchi, Massimiano (Eds.). (2007). Journalism, Science and Society: Science Communication Between News and Public Relations. London: Routledge.
  • Friedman, Sharon M., Dunwoody, Sharon, & Rogers, Carol L. (Eds.). (1986). Scientists and Journalists: Reporting Science as News. New York: The Free Press. [dated, but a classic]
  • Friedman, S., Dunwoody, S., & Rogers, C. (Eds.). (1999). Communicating Uncertainty: Media Coverage of New and Controversial Science. Mahwah, N.J.: Lawrence Erlbaum Associates.
  • Rödder, Simone, Franzen, Martina, & Weingart, Peter (Eds.). (2012). The sciences’ media connection : public communication and its repercussions. Dordrecht ; New York: Springer.

Public participation/public engagement in science

  • Fisher, Erik. (2011). Editorial Overview [special issue on public engagement]. [10.1007/s11948-011-9331-x]. Science And Engineering Ethics, 17(4), 607-620.
  • Lewenstein, Bruce V. (initiator). (2012-). Wiki page: Public Engagement in Science, from http://informalscience.org/research/wiki/Public-Engagement.
  • 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. [Download from here]
  • Bauer, Martin W. (2014). A word from the Editor on the special issue on ‘Public Engagement’. [introduction to special issue.] Public Understanding of Science, 23(1), 3. doi: 10.1177/0963662513518149

Science museums

  • Beetlestone, John G., Colin H. Johnson, Melanie Quin, and Harry White. 1998. The Science Center Movement: contexts, practice, next challenges. Public Understanding of Science 7 (1):5-26.
  • Bradburne, James M. 1998. Dinosaurs and white elephants: the science center in the twenty-first century. Public Understanding of Science 7 (3):237-253.
  • Persson, Per-Edvin. 2000. Science centers are thriving and going strong! Public Understanding of Science 9 (4):449-460.
  • Schiele, B., & Koster, E. H. (Eds.). (2000). Science Centers for this Century. St. Foy, Quebec: Editions Multimondes.

Citizen science

The literature in this area is growing rapidly.  Some entry points are:

  • Bonney, Rick, Ballard, Heidi, Jordan, Rebecca, McCallie, Ellen, Phillips, Tina, Shirk, Jennifer, & Wilderman, Candie C. (2009). Participation in Scientific Research: Defining the Field and Assessing Its Potential for Informal Science Education CAISE Inquiry Group Reports. Washington, DC: Center for Advancement of Informal Science Education. [Download free from here.]
  • Dickinson, Janis L., & Bonney, Rick (Eds.). (2012). Citizen science : public participation in environmental research. Ithaca: Comstock Pub. Associates.
  • 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
  • Bonney, Rick, Shirk, Jennifer L., Phillips, Tina B., Wiggins, Andrea, Ballard, Heidi L., Miller-Rushing, Abraham J., & Parrish, Julia K. (2014). Next Steps for Citizen Science. Science, 343(6178), 1436-1437. doi: 10.1126/science.1251554

The Citizen Science Association, formed in 2014, has launched a new journal: Citizen Science: Theory and Practice, which will become a key passage point for access to the literature.

The journal JCOM: Journal of Science Communication published two special issues on citizen science  in January and April 2016; I co-edited the first one.

Science literacy

Below are two lists of readings on science literacy: general and detailed. But a 2016 report from the U.S. National Academy of Sciences summarizes and advances the topic so far that I that think one is best served by starting there. Use the additional readings for background if this is a topic of particular interest to you.

Snow, C. E., Dibner, K. A., & Committee on Science Literacy and Public Perception of Science (Eds.). (2016). Science Literacy: Concepts, Contexts, and Consequences. Washington, DC: National Academies Press. [Available at http://www.nap.edu/23595] [Full disclosure: Two of my former students, John Besley and Dominique Brossard, served on the committee that produced this report]

  • Science literacy: general
    • Bauer, Henry H. Scientific Literacy and the Myth of the Scientific Method. Urbana and Chicago: University of Illinois Press, 1992.
    • Miller, Jon D. 1983. Scientific Literacy: A Conceptual and Empirical Review. Daedalus 112 (2):29-48.
    • Roth, Wolff-Michael, and Angela Calabrese Barton. 2004. Rethinking scientific literacy. New York ; London: RoutledgeFalmer.\
    • Shamos, Morris H. The Myth of Scientific Literacy. New Brunswick, N.J.: Rutgers University Press, 1995.
    • Shen, B. S. P. (1975). Science Literacy and the Public Understanding of Science. In S. Day (Ed.), Communication of Scientific Information (pp. 44-52). Basel: Karger. [This is a classic and still one of my favorites]
  • Science literacy: detailed studies and debates on measurement
    • Bauer, Martin. 2000. ‘Science in the media’ as cultural indicator: contextualising surveys with media analysis. In Between understanding and trust: the public, science and technology, edited by M. Dierkes and C. Von Grote. Reading: Harwood Academic Publishers.
    • Bauer, Martin W., K. Petkova, and P. Boyadjjewa. 2000. Public knowledge of and attitudes to science – alternative measures. Science, Technology & Human Values 25 (1):30-51.
    • Bauer, Martin W., and Ingrid Schoon. 1993. Mapping Variety in Public Understanding of Science. Public Understanding of Science 2 (2):141-155.
    • Godin, B., & Gingras, Y. (2000). What is scientific and technological culture and how is it measured? A multidimensional model. Public Understanding of Science, 9(1), 43-58.
    • Kallerud, Emil, and Inge Ramburg. 2002. The order of discourse in surveys of public understanding of science. Public Understanding of Science 11 (3):213-224.
    • Miller, Jon D.1992. Toward a Scientific Understanding of the Public Understanding of Science and Technology. Public Understanding of Science 1 (1):23-26.
    • Miller, Jon D. 1998. The measurement of civic scientific literacy. Public Understanding of Science 7 (3):203-223.
    • Miller, Jon D., and Linda G. Kimmel. 2001. Biomedical Communications: Purposes, Audiences, Strategies. New York: Academic Press.
    • Miller, Jon D., R. Pardo, and F. Niwa. 1997. Public Attitudes Toward Science and Technology: A Comparative Study of the European Union, the United States, Japan, and Canada. Madrid: BBV Foundation.
    • Miller, Jon D., K. Prewitt, and R. Pearson. 1980. The Attitudes of the U.S. Public Towards Science and Technology. Chicago: National Opinion Research Center.
    • Office of Science and Technology, and Wellcome Trust. 2000. Science and the Public: A Review of Science Communication and Public Attitudes to Science in Britain. London: Wellcome Trust.
    • Sturgis, Patrick, and Nick Allum. 2004. Science in Society: Re-evaluating the Deficit Model of Public Attitudes. Public Understanding of Science 13 (1):550-74.

Science education

Science education is a huge field and I make no claim to understanding its literature. Some sources I’ve found useful include:

  • Abell, S. K., & Lederman, N. G. (Eds.). (2007). Handbook of Research on Science Education. New York: Routledge.
  • American Association for the Advancement of Science. (1993). Benchmarks for Science Literacy. New York: Oxford University Press.
  • Bransford, John, Brown, Ann L., & Cocking, Rodney R. (Eds.). (2000). How people learn: brain, mind, experience, and school (Expanded ed.). Washington, DC: National Academies Press. [download for free from NAS website]
  • Bybee, R. W. (1997). Achieving Scientific Literacy: From Purposes to Practices. Portsmouth, NH: Heinemann.
  • Duschl, Richard A., Schweingruber, Heidi A., & Shouse, Andrew W. (Eds.). (2007). Taking Science to School: Learning and Teaching cience in Grades K-8. Washington, DC: National Academies Press. [download for free from NAS website]
  • National Research Council. 1996. National Science Education Standards. Washington: National Academy Press. [superceded by “Next Generation Science Standards]
  • Next Generation Science Standards (www.nextgenscience.org), which are based on National Research Council. (2012). A Framework for K-12 Science Education: Practices, Crosscutting Concepts, and Core Ideas. Washington, DC: National Academies Press [download for free from NAS website].
  • Project 2061. (1989). Science for All Americans. Washington, D.C.: AAAS.

Risk communication

Risk communication is another huge field. These are just some classics that I know about. People interested should consult more thorough reviews available elsewhere.

  • Douglas, M., and A. Wildavsky. 1982. Risk and Culture: An Essay on the Selection of Technical and Environmental Dangers. Berkeley: University of California Press.
  • Fischhoff, Baruch. 1995. Risk perception and communication unplugged: Twenty years of process. Risk Analysis 12:137-145.
  • National Research Council (U.S.). Committee on Risk Perception and Communication. 1989. Improving risk communication. Washington, D.C.: National Academy Press.
  • Pidgeon, Nick F., Roger E. Kasperson, and Paul Slovic, eds. 2003. The social amplification of risk. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.
  • Slovic, Paul. 1987. Perception of Risk. Science 236 (17 April):280-285.

Development communication

So…it’s increasingly clear to me that literature on development communication (including issues of community participation, participatory action research, and democracy and engagement) is relevant to studying public communication of science and technology. But I don’t know that literature, so I don’t know what to list. But you should go look for it! (In an attempt to find this literature, in 2016 I taught a seminar course on development communication; as a place to start, the syllabus for it might be useful.)

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The scholarly literature in this field is widespread. Anyone interested in the field should begin by consulting the scholarly journals that focus on public communication of science and technology, perhaps by reading through the tables of contents of recent volumes and finding articles of interest. I’m on the editorial advisory boards of four of them: Public Understanding of Science (I was editor in 1998-2003), Science Communication, International Journal of Science Education, Part B: Communication and Public Engagement, and the open-access journal JCOM: Journal of Science Communication

In addition, the social media world is now full of science communication discussions, both practical and academic. Personally, I follow the Twitter hashtag #scicomm, but I’m not the most adept social media user — other hashtags may be more useful for your interests. I also follow a daily aggregation, the #SciComm Daily.

In closing, I repeat: the lists above are my own and undoubtedly leave out resources, books, articles, or other materials that some readers believe should be here. I would be glad for suggestions of additions. Nonetheless, I think these lists are as good a starting place as any.

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Last modified: 11 August 2016

P.S. Pardon the varying formats for bibliographic cites — I’ve cut and pasted from various sources.