This deliberative forum held as part of the World Wide Views on Biodiversity initiative is an example of a “public engagement” approach to life sciences communication. Research suggests that when institutions invest in carefully designed public dialogue, such efforts can boost public trust, promote perceptions of fairness and responsiveness, and provide important feedback for experts and decision-makers.  Yet such initiatives — if not carefully conceived and planned — can present several pitfalls and trade-offs. In a Dec. 9, 2013 talk as part of a National Academies workshop on “Sustainable Infrastructures for Life Sciences Communication,” I reviewed the major models and approaches to life sciences communication, discussing their advantages and trade-offs.


Nisbet nas interface_draft from Matthew Nisbet


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

  • 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]
  • Mooney, C. & Nisbet, M.C. (2005, Sept./Oct.). When Coverage of Evolution Shifts to the Political and Opinion Pages, the Scientific Context Falls Away, Unraveling Darwin. Columbia Journalism Review, 31-39. [Cover article] [PDF] [HTML]
  • Nisbet, M.C., Brossard, D., & Kroepsch, A. (2003).  Framing Science: The Stem Cell Controversy in an Age of Press/Politics.  Harvard International Journal of Press/Politics,8 (2), 36-70. [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]
  • Nelkin, D. (1992). Controversy: The Politics of Technical Decisions. Third Edition. Newbury Park, CA: Sage Publications.
  • 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

  • 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]
  • Nisbet, M.C. (2009). The Ethics of Framing Science. In B. Nerlich, B. Larson, & R. Elliott (Eds.). Communicating Biological Sciences: Ethical and Metaphorical Dimensions (pp 51-74). London: Ashgate. [HTML] [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