sustainability-logo

Journal Browser

Journal Browser

Connecting Science with People: Creating Science Communication that Matters

A special issue of Sustainability (ISSN 2071-1050).

Deadline for manuscript submissions: closed (31 July 2023) | Viewed by 20389

Special Issue Editors

Centre for Science Communication, University of Otago, Dunedin 9016, New Zealand
Interests: frameworks for science communication; communication of science in online videos and social media; communication of science in national parks
Otago Bussiness School, University of Otago, Dunedin 9016, New Zealand
Interests: the power of visual media as part of strategic marketing communication for positive environmental and social change

Special Issue Information

Dear Colleagues,

We are pleased to invite you to consider contributing to the following Special Issue of Sustainability on the topic of “Connecting Science with People: Creating Science Communication that Matters”.

This Special Issue will consist of a select group of contributors handpicked because they have something innovative and new to say about the field of science communication. The purpose of the issue is not to present science communication as it is, but to demonstrate what it can be—in other words, to interrogate it, to prod it, and to illuminate where it can go in the future. Hence, it will contain papers that examine the dogma that has arisen in the field, papers that present new frameworks or test alternative theories, and papers that provide new directions for fruitful research. As such, it is sure to be a controversial and—if done as well as planned—a well-cited collection of papers that deal with the big issues facing our field.

There has never been a more critical time for the sustainability of the Earth, including human beings, which depends on our understanding of science and technology. On one level, science and technology are at the heart of all the problems facing the world, from pandemics to pollution, from declining biodiversity to increasing poverty, from habitat destruction to burgeoning obesity levels, all of which have the use or misuse of some aspect of science or technology is at its core. Conversely, and rather fortuitously, science and technology also hold the keys to solving those problems. For such solutions to succeed, however, it is important that the public understand science (e.g., there is little value in producing a vaccine if people will not use it). The problem is that science can appear dense and hard for ordinary people to get their heads around. That is where science communication comes in: It acts as a bridge that facilitates exchange and understanding between scientists and the public.

Over the last 40 years, the academic field of science communication has emerged. Like all new disciplines, it began with good intentions but little data. Ideas were put forward and batted around in the academic form of natural selection. From that process, certain concepts have become prominent in science communication, dogma even, though a real theoretical framework upon which to hang them still eludes much of the discipline. The time for a rigorous self-examination is long overdue, and this Special Issue aims to start that process.

In this Special Issue, original research articles and commentaries are welcome. Research areas may include (but are not limited to) the following: examination of the dogma that has arisen in the field of science communication; papers that present new frameworks or test alternative theories; papers that examine how best science should be marketed; papers that consider science communication’s involvement in bringing about behavioral change to drive sustainability; and papers that provide new directions for fruitful research.

We expect it to be a curated collection of papers that deal with the big issues facing the field of science communication and, thus, the significant issues that will help to determine whether science can be a stumbling block or a steppingstone for the future sustainability of our species and planet.

We look forward to receiving your contributions.

Prof. Dr. Lloyd Spencer Davis
Dr. Wiebke Finkler
Guest Editors

Manuscript Submission Information

Manuscripts should be submitted online at www.mdpi.com by registering and logging in to this website. Once you are registered, click here to go to the submission form. Manuscripts can be submitted until the deadline. All submissions that pass pre-check are peer-reviewed. Accepted papers will be published continuously in the journal (as soon as accepted) and will be listed together on the special issue website. Research articles, review articles as well as short communications are invited. For planned papers, a title and short abstract (about 100 words) can be sent to the Editorial Office for announcement on this website.

Submitted manuscripts should not have been published previously, nor be under consideration for publication elsewhere (except conference proceedings papers). All manuscripts are thoroughly refereed through a single-blind peer-review process. A guide for authors and other relevant information for submission of manuscripts is available on the Instructions for Authors page. Sustainability is an international peer-reviewed open access semimonthly journal published by MDPI.

Please visit the Instructions for Authors page before submitting a manuscript. The Article Processing Charge (APC) for publication in this open access journal is 2400 CHF (Swiss Francs). Submitted papers should be well formatted and use good English. Authors may use MDPI's English editing service prior to publication or during author revisions.

Keywords

  • science communication
  • dogma
  • framework
  • deficit model
  • citizen science
  • testing
  • behaviour change
  • marketing
  • sustainability

Published Papers (10 papers)

Order results
Result details
Select all
Export citation of selected articles as:

Research

Jump to: Other

20 pages, 589 KiB  
Article
Progressing from Science Communication to Engagement: Community Voices on Water Quality and Access in Makhanda
Sustainability 2024, 16(1), 459; https://doi.org/10.3390/su16010459 - 04 Jan 2024
Viewed by 616
Abstract
The EU’s Responsible Research and Innovation framework advocates for engagement between communities and scientists, creating opportunities for scientific research and processes to be informed and shaped by community voices. To date, few examples in the literature explore this in practice. Hence, key questions [...] Read more.
The EU’s Responsible Research and Innovation framework advocates for engagement between communities and scientists, creating opportunities for scientific research and processes to be informed and shaped by community voices. To date, few examples in the literature explore this in practice. Hence, key questions remain as to the role that communities play in this framework and the nature of and extent to which community voices and localised perspectives inform research and innovation. This paper explores how a collaborative community engagement process, facilitated at the outset, could meaningfully inform the establishment of a water quality testing facility. In Makhanda, a water-scarce region of South Africa, focus group discussions as well as site visits/observations integrated community and researcher knowledges to shape the community-engaged water testing facility. This study details how the daily assessment of water by the community provided valuable insights to the researchers on the nature and extent of factors affecting water quality and informed the sites and timing of water testing in subsequent scientific measurements of the same. Furthermore, it opened pathways to sustained, longer-term engagement between scientists and communities around water quality, highlighting the need for a multi-stakeholder focus to support community agency around access to safe water. Full article
Show Figures

Figure 1

20 pages, 9143 KiB  
Article
Connecting People with Science: A Proof-of-Concept Study to Evaluate Action-Based Storytelling for Science Communication
Sustainability 2023, 15(15), 11655; https://doi.org/10.3390/su151511655 - 28 Jul 2023
Viewed by 912
Abstract
Many of the major environmental problems facing society remain intractable because members of the public neither perceive the relevance to them nor how their individual actions might help the situation. Post-consumer textile waste is one such disregarded problem, whereby disposal of waste from [...] Read more.
Many of the major environmental problems facing society remain intractable because members of the public neither perceive the relevance to them nor how their individual actions might help the situation. Post-consumer textile waste is one such disregarded problem, whereby disposal of waste from the fashion industry, especially the discarding of functional but out-of-fashion garments, releases significant greenhouse gases that contribute to climate change. Here, we used action-based storytelling as proof-of-concept of an innovative way to promote agency for climate action by showcasing pro-environmental behaviour through social modelling within stories. We evaluated the effectiveness of action-based storytelling in evoking agency, self-efficacy, and intention to increase second-hand clothing consumption. This research sought to identify if the choices faced by the story’s hero impacted these variables. The research is innovative in its use of a mixed-methods research methodology and community-based social marketing approach. Two focus groups identified consumer barriers to, and motivations for, second-hand clothing consumption in order to inform the development of three action-based storytelling videos (each with a different hero character: (i) a scientist, (ii) an influencer and (iii) students). A quasi-experimental survey evaluated how action-based storytelling and the different story heroes impacted participants’ levels of agency, self-efficacy, and intention. Results showed that participants’ levels of agency, self-efficacy, and intention significantly increased after watching the videos. Furthermore, the influencer hero was found to have the greatest effect on these variables. This research concludes that action-based storytelling can be an effective communication approach which demonstrates promising results in evoking agency and self-efficacy and increasing the likelihood that consumers will adopt pro-environmental behaviours. Full article
Show Figures

Figure 1

18 pages, 12409 KiB  
Article
Evidence-Based Methods of Communicating Science to the Public through Data Visualization
Sustainability 2023, 15(8), 6845; https://doi.org/10.3390/su15086845 - 18 Apr 2023
Cited by 1 | Viewed by 2734
Abstract
This essay presents a real-world demonstration of the evidence-based science communication process, showing how it can be used to create scientific data visualizations for public audiences. Visualizing research data can be an important science communication tool. Maximizing its effectiveness has the potential to [...] Read more.
This essay presents a real-world demonstration of the evidence-based science communication process, showing how it can be used to create scientific data visualizations for public audiences. Visualizing research data can be an important science communication tool. Maximizing its effectiveness has the potential to benefit millions of viewers. As with many forms of science communication, creators of such data visualizations typically rely on their own judgments and the views of the scientists providing the data to inform their science communication decision-making. But that leaves out a critical stakeholder in the communications pipeline: the intended audience. Here, we show the practical steps that our team, the Advanced Visualization Lab at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, has taken to shift toward more evidence-based practice to enhance our science communication impact. We do this by using concrete examples from our work on two scientific documentary films, one on the theme of “solar superstorms” and the other focusing on the black hole at the center of the Milky Way galaxy. We used audience research with each of these films to inform our strategies and designs. Findings revealed specific techniques that were effective in information labels. For example, audiences appreciated the use of an outline of the Earth to demonstrate scale in scientific visualizations relating to the Sun. We describe how such research evidence informed our understanding of “what works and why” with cinematic-style data visualizations for the public. We close the essay with our key take-home messages from this evidence-based science communication process. Full article
Show Figures

Figure 1

22 pages, 1034 KiB  
Article
Models of Teaching Science Communication
Sustainability 2023, 15(6), 5172; https://doi.org/10.3390/su15065172 - 14 Mar 2023
Cited by 1 | Viewed by 2358
Abstract
Changes in the communication ecosystem have generated profound transformations in current science communication. In the same way, the coexistence of diverse actors with different objectives and professional standards also raises new ethical dilemmas. The main objective of this research was to identify existing [...] Read more.
Changes in the communication ecosystem have generated profound transformations in current science communication. In the same way, the coexistence of diverse actors with different objectives and professional standards also raises new ethical dilemmas. The main objective of this research was to identify existing models of teaching science communication to scientists and professional communicators worldwide. To this end, we conducted 26 semi-structured interviews with science communication teachers from 15 different countries. From these interviews, we identified three models of teaching science communication to scientists: (A) the practical model, where skills such as writing, public speaking, etc., are taught; (B) the reflective model that teaches theory and the history of science communication to enable researchers to understand the relationship between science and society; and (C) the disruptive model, where traditional roles of scientific knowledge production as well as relationships and power roles in science are challenged. On the other hand, we have identified two models for professional science communicators: (A) the professional model, which is subdivided into two different approaches—theoretical (historical review, understanding of the science–society relationships, etc.) and skill-based (writing, audiovisual, etc.) that coexist in teaching programs—and (B) the research model, where tools, concepts, and methodologies for science communication research are taught. Full article
Show Figures

Figure 1

13 pages, 1976 KiB  
Article
Citizen Science: Is It Good Science?
Sustainability 2023, 15(5), 4577; https://doi.org/10.3390/su15054577 - 03 Mar 2023
Cited by 1 | Viewed by 1799
Abstract
Citizen science projects, which entail scientific work undertaken by members of the public, have increased substantially over the last three decades. However, the credibility of such science has been questioned, especially with respect to its prospects for producing peer-reviewed publications, the principal means [...] Read more.
Citizen science projects, which entail scientific work undertaken by members of the public, have increased substantially over the last three decades. However, the credibility of such science has been questioned, especially with respect to its prospects for producing peer-reviewed publications, the principal means by which science is communicated and validated. We conducted a meta-analysis of 895 citizen science projects launched between 1890 and 2018. Three-quarters (674) did not produce a single peer-reviewed paper. The remaining 221 projects produced 2075 publications, although just five projects accounted for nearly half the publications. The average time from project launch to first publication was 9.15 years. Projects in health and medicine and astronomy were most likely to produce publications. Projects in biology (65.8% of all projects), computer science, and social sciences were least likely to publish their results. In conclusion, the “science” element of most citizen science projects is largely irrelevant as it is never validated or communicated. We propose reclassifying citizen science projects into two types: (i) Citizen Science, where the focus is on science, and participants essentially function as sampling devices; and (ii) Citizen Engagement, where the value lies more in citizen engagement than it does in citizen science. Full article
Show Figures

Figure 1

17 pages, 707 KiB  
Article
Infotainment May Increase Engagement with Science but It Can Decrease Perceptions of Seriousness
Sustainability 2022, 14(17), 10659; https://doi.org/10.3390/su141710659 - 26 Aug 2022
Viewed by 1426
Abstract
We presented 867 participants with one of two videos about climate change that differed only in terms of whether they had an infotainment or expository narration. They were available in either English or Spanish. The participants consisted of two distinct clusters: one in [...] Read more.
We presented 867 participants with one of two videos about climate change that differed only in terms of whether they had an infotainment or expository narration. They were available in either English or Spanish. The participants consisted of two distinct clusters: one in which all were over 30 with a university degree, and another dominated by younger participants without a university degree. The infotainment version produced a significantly reduced perception of the seriousness of climate change for the planet in the latter cluster. Furthermore, viewers of the English versions, who were predominantly residents in countries with low-context cultures, perceived the risk of climate change for the planet to be significantly higher after watching the video with the expository narration. Using infotainment for science communication is a two-edged sword: while it may help engagement, making light of a topic can reduce perceptions about its seriousness. We suggest that the use of infotainment should be determined by the aims of the communicators and the nature of the target audience. If the purpose is simply to convey information, then infotainment is likely to be the most effective and it has the additional benefit of engaging recipients that lack a university education. However, if the purpose is to affect attitudes and persuade an audience, then an expository narration is likely to be most effective. Full article
Show Figures

Figure 1

10 pages, 239 KiB  
Article
Public Understanding of Ignorance as Critical Science Literacy
Sustainability 2022, 14(10), 5920; https://doi.org/10.3390/su14105920 - 13 May 2022
Cited by 1 | Viewed by 2150
Abstract
We are largely ignorant. At least, there are many more things we are ignorant of than knowledgeable of. Yet, the common perception of ignorance as a negative trait has left it rather unloved in debates around making knowledge public, including science communication in [...] Read more.
We are largely ignorant. At least, there are many more things we are ignorant of than knowledgeable of. Yet, the common perception of ignorance as a negative trait has left it rather unloved in debates around making knowledge public, including science communication in its various guises. However, ignorance is a complex and essential part of science; it performs a number of legitimate roles, and is performed in a range of legitimate ways within science. In this paper, I argue that it is vital to understand when ignorance is an appropriate, legitimate part of the scientific process, and when ignorance is misused or abused in science. I argue that understanding ignorance is a central aspect of public understanding of science, especially in terms critical science literacy. Critical science literacy argues that more than simply an understanding of scientific facts and processes, a key component of what scientific literacy should aim for is an understanding of the tacit knowledge of science. I present a typology of ignorance and argue that fostering a greater public understanding of ignorance is a rarely acknowledged, yet essential, aspect of making science public, and that it is a challenge that those engaged in and committed to better public understanding of science should take very seriously. Full article
10 pages, 1420 KiB  
Communication
@thermogramer: Thermal Imaging as a Tool for Science Communication and E-Learning in Social Media
Sustainability 2022, 14(5), 3096; https://doi.org/10.3390/su14053096 - 07 Mar 2022
Viewed by 1718
Abstract
The COVID-19 pandemic boosted the presence of thermal cameras in our society. These devices are becoming cheaper and smaller and can even be plugged in our smartphones. Therefore, soon enough everybody will have access to these instruments. Thermal cameras have been widely used [...] Read more.
The COVID-19 pandemic boosted the presence of thermal cameras in our society. These devices are becoming cheaper and smaller and can even be plugged in our smartphones. Therefore, soon enough everybody will have access to these instruments. Thermal cameras have been widely used for industrial, research and/or academic purposes. Now, in the rise of the online era, this work proposes and assesses a new application for such devices as visual engaging tools for science communication and e-learning in social media. Here, we introduce @thermogramer as a science communication channel that shows multispectral (optical and thermal) images of daily life objects to explain the science behind different topics of social interest (climate change, emerging technologies, health, and popular traditions). This young project is already present in social media, press, TV and museum’s exhibitions, and its designed content have been already useful for new inexperienced users, science educators and communicators. Full article
Show Figures

Figure 1

Other

Jump to: Research

8 pages, 205 KiB  
Commentary
We Need to Do Better: Five Notable Failings in Science Communication
Sustainability 2022, 14(14), 8393; https://doi.org/10.3390/su14148393 - 08 Jul 2022
Cited by 2 | Viewed by 1925
Abstract
Despite significant growth in interest and investment in science communication, the field has demonstrated some high-profile failures in recent years—exemplified by anti-vaccine and anti-climate change beliefs—supported by interest groups that are often highly effective at promoting anti-science messages. This paper looks at five [...] Read more.
Despite significant growth in interest and investment in science communication, the field has demonstrated some high-profile failures in recent years—exemplified by anti-vaccine and anti-climate change beliefs—supported by interest groups that are often highly effective at promoting anti-science messages. This paper looks at five key areas where science communication research and practice need to do better, and offers some solutions, in order to achieve the impact that science communicators strive for. Full article
8 pages, 232 KiB  
Commentary
Science Communication at a Time of Crisis: Emergency, Democracy, and Persuasion
Sustainability 2022, 14(9), 5103; https://doi.org/10.3390/su14095103 - 23 Apr 2022
Cited by 1 | Viewed by 3203
Abstract
This commentary essay reflects on the role of science communication in contemporary democratic societies, with a particular focus on how it should be imagined and practiced in times of crisis and emergency such as the COVID-19 pandemic or climate change. I distinguish between [...] Read more.
This commentary essay reflects on the role of science communication in contemporary democratic societies, with a particular focus on how it should be imagined and practiced in times of crisis and emergency such as the COVID-19 pandemic or climate change. I distinguish between science communication that is oriented to strategic and democratic goals, and argue for the continued importance of science communication in nurturing democracy even at times of crisis. I close by suggesting principles that might guide such communication, and by relating these arguments to an understanding of science communication as ‘the social conversation around science’. Full article
Back to TopTop