The Brave New World of Science Communication:
Why Ignoring Empirical Social Science Increasingly Undermines Scientific Progress
Dietram A. Scheufele, University of Wisconsin—Madison
Recent scientific breakthroughs, such as nanotechnology, are changing the world as we know it. Gold nanoshells, for both imaging and targeting tumors, have the potential to revolutionize cancer treatments. At the same time, nanotechnology has raised concerns about what it means to create and manipulate materials at the molecular scale that do not occur in nature. With over 1,000 nano-based consumer end products entering the market in the past few years, consumer advocates, academics, and policy makers are scrambling to weigh the risks and benefits of this new technology and its applications. So how do we all form opinions even though most of us lack a comprehensive scientific understanding of emerging scientific fields? How do we use our personal values and moral standards to make sense of scientific facts? And why does all of this matter for the global leadership role of the U.S.--both economically and technologically--in a rapidly changing world? This panel will tackle how we as a society make sense of sometimes controversial technologies and why a new “science of science communication” will be crucial for maintaining a healthy scientific enterprise in the U.S.
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