Model of Science Communication

Topics: Communication, Scientific method, Sociology Pages: 5 (542 words) Published: February 25, 2013
Brian Trench School of Communications Dublin City University Ireland

Models of communication
• (implicit) construction of relations between participants in a communication process • basis of strategies adopted in particular communication acts or initiatives

From deficit model to dialogue?
Maybe, but … • Cultural change is never so neat • Mutuality was on the agenda before dialogue was proclaimed • Change of vocabulary ≠ change of model

Deficit model never went away
• Default position of many scientific communities and of public policy-makers close to them • Barely hidden in some ‘dialogue’ practices – e.g. we listen to them in order to make our interventions more effective

Deficit model never went away
• Actively adopted by science advocates facing “irrational” public • Reinforced by versions of the “knowledge economy”

Simplified model of models
• Deficit • Dialogue • Participation
Linear one-way Linear two-way Networked, multidirectional

Expanding model of models
We communicate science to them Transmission of information They are ignorant


We communicate science with them

Consultation on applications

They talk back


We communicate about science among them

Conversation about implications

They contribute

Alternatives to deficit model
• [We seek] to develop a widespread, innovative and effective system of dialogue with society ... [and] to take account of the values and attitudes of the public – Royal Society

Deficit model in PCST studies
• “The science is pared down to isolated facts rather than effectively translated with methodology and context included” – Study of genomics in media, Public Understanding of Science, 2004

Deficit model in PCST studies
• “Media stories should provide information that the public really needs to know and wants to know” – analysis of media coverage of the West Nile virus, Science Communication, 2003

Deficit: examples from PCST8
“The objectives were to boost the scientific vocations among young people” “It is necessary to promote strategies for installing in public opinion a greater appropriation of science and technology”

Dialogue+: PCST8 examples
“Benefits for students of industry links to education programmes include putting their learning into real-life contexts” “It is increasingly accepted that the scientific community has a duty to play a role in making knowledge and technologies meaningful to different communities”

Participation: PCST8 examples
“Citizens’ participation implies the existence of opportunities to accede to and appropriate scientific contents and reliable information, as well as be involved in decision-making on public policies and in social debates on these subjects” “The crux of the matter is getting civil society to take part in the process of decision-making”

Models in PCST8 papers
Deficit Dialogue Participation 48 (29%) 74 (45%) 42 (26%)

Variants on models
Defence They are hostile They can be persuaded They have diverse needs and we recognise them They have rights and we have responsibility They and we set the agenda They and we interpret meanings


Marketing Context


Duty Deliberation



Communication model

Public arenas and Dominant versions in objects science communication


Ideological / philosophical associations

Transmission Popularisation
One-way, one-time

Teaching Economy
Literacy, skills



Scientism Technocracy

Marketing Propaganda

Consultation Negotiation
Two-way, iterative

Consumption Policy Learning


Pragmatism Constructivism Social responsibility Civic science Reflexivity Relativism Uncertainty

Duty Deliberation

Conversation Interpretation
Multi-directional, open-ended

Democracy Culture...
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