Science of Science Communication

In October 2014, as part of the celebration of its 20th anniversary, the Annenberg Public Policy Center announced it would open a new area of study, the Science of Science Communication, to investigate how scientific evidence can be more effectively conveyed to the public. This area will look at the failure to dispel public controversy over such issues as climate change, vaccinations, and genetically modified organisms (GMOs) despite the presence of valid, compelling and widely accessible scientific evidence. “There’s a persistent gap between expert knowledge of scientific issues and public perception on myriad issues,” APPC director Kathleen Hall Jamieson said. “Through empirical testing, we will examine ways to close this gap and separate the issues in communicating science from the evidence that is being presented.” She said APPC also will study such issues as the self-correcting nature of science, and whether corrections and retractions contribute to a perception that the science itself is flawed. This area builds on past APPC projects such as the dissemination of media guidelines for suicide coverage, and the Annenberg Health Communication wiki, a site to help professional health communicators make better use of state-of-the-art social science.

Does a Scientific Breakthrough Increase Confidence in Science? News of a Zika Vaccine and Trust in Science

How can public support for science be encouraged? In early August 2016, a Zika vaccine entered its first human trial. Extensive media coverage followed. Using repeated cross-sectional surveys, we observed that, following this media coverage, survey respondents reported greater attention to Zika news and an increased trust in science as providing solutions to problems.

The role of language in expressing the life sciences in a polarized age

This Perspective is based on the keynote plenary lecture delivered at the Annual Conference of the Association for Politics and the Life Sciences (APLS), held on October 23, 2015, at the University of Wisconsin–Madison. In these comments, I adopt a rhetorical perspective in order to consider the role of language in clarifying or confusing the public and public debates on a number of consequential polarized topics in the life sciences. My analysis is predicated on Samuel Taylor Coleridge’s notion that “language itself does, as it were, think for us.” Literary critic Kenneth Burke advanced the same concept in humorous fashion when he suggested that a toast I was slated to deliver in his honor state simply, “Language can do our thinking for us but language cannot do our drinking for us.”

The Oxford Handbook of the Science of Science Communication

Drawing on the expertise of leading science communication scholars from six countries, The Oxford Handbook of the Science of Science Communication not only charts the media landscape – from news and entertainment to blogs and films – but also examines the powers and perils of human biases – from the disposition to seek confirming evidence to the inclination to overweight endpoints in a trend line. In the process, it draws together the best available social science on ways to communicate science while also minimizing the pernicious effects of human bias.