The State of the Empirical Research on Scientists as Public Communicators
Anthony Dudo, Assistant Professor
Stan Richards School of Advertising & Public Relations Moody College of Communication
The University of Texas at Austin
Concerns about improving the connections between science and society have a long history. In recent years, however, leaders from within the scientific community have placed a renewed focus on the crucial role scientists should play in strengthening these connections. This renewed focus stems from multiple considerations, chief among them the urgency and increased politicization of many modern technological and scientific issues (e.g., climate change, synthetic biology, embryonic stem cell research), and the drastic changes in the 21st century media landscape. The scientific community, some argue, needs a larger share-‐of-‐voice about scientific issues in the public sphere.
With this context in mind, I have three primary goals for this talk. First, I will provide a brief history and context of the public engagement with science (PES) issue and elaborate on its increasing relevance. Second, I will present key insights and trends from the rapidly growing body of empirical literature that examines scientist communicators. These insights and trends will primarily grant the audience a sense of (1) how often scientists are engaging in public communication activities and (2) what factors— psychological, organizational, etc.—are associated with partaking in these activities. Much of this overview will include findings derived from my own research. In the last portion of my talk, I will discuss some of the implications of this work, in terms of its practical applications and key directions for future research.
Background Review Article:
Gene Russo, “Outreach: Meet the Press,” Nature 468 (2010): 465–467.
Additional reading materials:
Leshner, A. I. (2003). Public engagement with Science. Science, 299(5609), 977-‐977.
Dudo, A., Kahlor, L., AbiGhannam, N., Lazard, A., & Liang, M.-‐C. (2014). An analysis of nanoscientists as public communicators. Nature Nanotechnology, doi: 10.1038/nnano.2014.194
Dudo, A. (2013). Toward a model of scientists' public communication activity: The case of biomedical researchers. Science Communication, 35(4), 476-‐501.
Peters, H. P., Brossard, D., de Cheveigne, S., Dunwoody, S., Kallfass, M., Miller, S., & Tsuchida, S. (2008). Interactions with the mass media. Science, 321, 204-‐205.
Besley, J. C., & Nisbet, M. (2011). How scientists view the public, the media and the political process. Public Understanding of Science, 22(6), 644-‐659.