Carl Sagan and Neil deGrasse Tyson have come to symbolize the dominant “popularization” approach to science communication, a model that has been embraced with renewed enthusiasm among young scientists as they have experimented with and developed a variety of digital and social media tools. Yet this dominant approach to science communication is not without several key imitations, pitfalls and trade-offs.

In a March 29, 2014 talk as part of the “Sharing Science” conference held at the University of British Columbia,  I reviewed major areas of research, analysis and debate relevant to  twenty years of evolving models and approaches to science communication. Below you can download the slides and also find relevant background readings on the major models reviewed.




General Overviews and Major Themes

  • Miller, S. (2001). Public understanding of science at a cross-roads. Public Understanding of Science, 10 (1), 115-120. [PDF].
  • Brossard, D., & Lewenstein, B. V. (2009). A Critical Appraisal of Models of Public Understanding of Science: Using Practice to Inform Theory. In L. Kahlor & P. Stout (Eds.), Communicating Science: New Agendas in Communication(pp. 11-39). New York: Routledge. [PDF]
  • Nisbet, M.C. & Scheufele, D.A. (2009). What’s Next for Science Communication? Promising Directions and Lingering Distractions. American Journal of Botany, 96 (10), 1767-1778. (PDF).
  • Nisbet, M.C. & Scheufele, D.A. (2012, July 23). Scientists’ Intuitive Failures. The Scientist magazine. [HTML]
  • Borchelt R. (2008). Public Relations in Science: Managing the Trust Portfolio. In Bucchi M., Trench B. [Eds.], Handbook of Public Communication on Science and Technology, 147-158. Routledge, London, UK. [PDF]
  • Irwin A. (2008). Risk, Science and Public Communication: Third-Order Thinking about Scientific Culture. In Bucchi M., Trench, B. [Eds.] Handbook of Public Communication on Science and Technology, pg. 111-130. Routledge, London UK [PDF]
  • CBC Radio (2008). Interview with Brian Wynne. How to Think about Science series. Listen to Podcastand/or read transcript of interview [PDF]

Popularization, Scientists and Controversy in an Evolving Media Ecosystem

  • Nisbet, M.C. & Markowitz, E. (in press). Experts in an Age of Polarization: Evaluating Scientists’ Engagement with Politics and Civic Life. Annals of the American Academy of Political and Social Science.
  • Nisbet, M.C. & Markowitz, E. (2014). Understanding Public Opinion in Debates Over Biomedical Research: Looking Beyond Partisanship to Focus on Beliefs about Science and Society. PLoS ONE 9(2): e88473.
  • Hilgartner, S. (1990). The dominant view of popularization: Conceptual problems, political uses. Social Studies of Science, 519-539. [PDF]
  • Nisbet, M.C. & Lewenstein, B.V. (2002).  Biotechnology and the American media: The Policy Process and the Elite Press, 1970 to 1999.  Science Communication, 23 (4) 359-391. [PDF]
  • Fahy, D. & Nisbet, M.C. (2011). The Science Journalist Online: Shifting Roles and Emerging Practices. Journalism: Theory, Practice & Criticism12: 778-793. [HTML]
  • Brossard, D. (2013). New Media Landscapes and the Science Information Consumer Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences [HTML]
  • Bubela, T., Nisbet, M.C. et al. (2009). Science Communication Re-Considered. Nature Biotechnology, 27,514-518. [PDF]
  • Caulfield, T. (2005). ”Popular Media, Biotechnology and the ‘Cycle of Hype’.”  Journal of Health Law and Policy 213-233. [PDF]
  • Sarewitz, D. (2004). How Science makes environmental controversies worse. Environment Science and Policy, 7:385-403. [PDF]
  • Kahan, D. (2012, Aug. 15). Why We Are Poles Apart on Climate Change. Nature. [HTML].
  • Besley, J. & Nisbet, M.C. (2013). How Scientists View the Media, the Public, and the Political Process. Public Understanding of Science, 22: 644-659. [PDF] [HTML summary]

Strategic Communication: Advantages and Pitfalls

  • Nisbet, M.C. (in press). Engaging in Science Policy Controversies: Insights from the U.S. Debate Over Climate Change. Handbook of the Public Communication of Science and Technology, 2nd Edition. London: Routledge. [PDF]
  • Labov, J. and Pope, B.K. (2008). Understanding our audiences: The design and evolution of Science, Evolution, and Creationism. CBE Life Sciences Education, 7(1): 20-24.
  • Scheufele, D. A. (2013). Communicating science in social settings. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences. [HTML]
  • Maibach EW, Roser-Renouf C, Leiserowitz A (2008). Communication and Marketing as Climate Change Intervention Assets: A Public Health Perspective. American Journal of Preventive Medicine, 35(5), 488-500. [HTML]
  • Maibach, E. W., Leiserowitz, A., Roser-Renouf, C., & Mertz, C. (2011). Identifying like-minded audiences for global warming public engagement campaigns: An audience segmentation analysis and tool development. PloS One, 6(3), e17571. [HTML]
  • Nisbet, M.C. & Kotcher, J. (2009). A Two Step Flow of Influence? Opinion-Leader Campaigns on Climate Change.  Science Communication, 30, 328-358. (PDF).
  • Myers, T., Nisbet, M.C., Maibach, E.W., & Leiserowitz, A. (2012). A Public Health Frame Arouses Hopeful Emotions about Climate Change.  Climatic Change Research Letters, 1105-1121. [PDF]

Public Engagement and Dialogue: Uses, Benefits and Limits

  • Einsiedel, E. and Eastlick, D.L. (2001). Consensus conferences as deliberative democracy: A communications perspective. Science Communication 21 (4):323-343. [PDF]
  • Einsiedel E. (2008). Public Engagement and Dialogue: A Research Review. In Bucchi M., Trench, B. [Eds.], Handbook of Public Communication on Science and Technology, 173-185. Routledge, London, UK [PDF].
  • Besley, J. C., McComas, K. A. & Trumbo, C. W. (2012). Citizen views about public meetings. Journal of Risk Research, 15(4), 355-372.
  • Besley, J. C., Kramer, V. L., Yao, Q. & Toumey, C. P. (2008). Interpersonal discussion following citizen engagement on emerging technology. Science Communication, 30(4), 209-235.
  • Binder, A. R., Scheufele, D. A., & Brossard, D. (2012). Misguided science policy? The pitfalls of using public meetings as surrogate gauges of public opinion. The Scientist magazine [HTML].
  • Scheufele, D.A. (2011). Modern Citizenship or Policy Dead End? Evaluating the Need for Public Participation in Science Policy Making, and Why Public Meetings May Not Be the Answer. Discussion Paper. Shorenstein Center on Press, Politics and the Press. Kennedy School of Government, Harvard University. [PDF]
  • World Wide Views of Global Warming
  • World Wide Views of Biodiversity

Stakeholder Driven Science and Utilizing Lay Expertise: Promise and Challenges

  • Hall, D.M, Silka, L., & Lindenfield, L. (2012). Advancing Science and Improving Quality of Place: Linking Knowledge with Action in Maine’s Sustainability Solutions Initiative.  Maine Policy Review 21.2, 22-29. [PDF]
  • Lindenfeld, L.A., D.M. Hall, B. McGreavy, L. Silka, D. Hart. 2012. Creating a place for Communication Research in Sustainability Science. Environmental Communication: A Journal of Nature & Culture. Volume 6 (March), pp. 23-43 [PDF].
  • Noblet, C.L., Lindenfeld, L.A., & Anderson, M. (2013). Environmental Worldviews: A Point of Common Contact or Barrier? Sustainability, 5(11), 4825-4892. [PDF]
  • University of Maine’s Sustainability Solutions Institute and Sen. George Mitchell Center
  • MPBN Sustainable Maine series