Science Communication and Social Media: NASA Moon Landings to Instagramming Astronauts

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via Pixabay

As part of a series previewing the new book, Communicating Your Research with Social Media.. Information about the authors can be found at the end of this post. 

Science communication has evolved into an essential part of the public outreach and education programs of many scientific organizations. Where television documentaries and public exhibitions were once relied upon for these aims, social media platforms have now brought new opportunities for scientists and communicators to interact with their audiences.

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Pilot Study: Why Academics Should Engage With The Community

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Dr Ian Moffat explaining ground penetrating radar to community members during a survey of the Innamincka Cemetery.
Julia Garnaut, Author provided

By Ian Moffat, Flinders University

Australian academics will soon have a new incentive to get off campus and into the community to engage with the people who ultimately fund their research – the taxpayers.

The Australian Research Council (ARC) is currently piloting a new scheme to quantify impact and engagement by academics. It’s part of proposed funding changes under the National Innovation and Science Agenda.

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VIDEO: Brian Cox Neil deGrasse Tyson Communicating Science in the 21st Century

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Brian Cox and Neil deGrasse Tyson’s compelling exploration of what science communication is, drawing on interesting similarities and contrasts between the UK and the US.

“In the UK, we have the BBC – a public serviced broadcaster, in the purest sense of the word – and its mission is to engage and bring people into diversity programming…. What worries me in the US is that when you have multiple channels (such as The Science Channel ) and those channels are “specialist”, you’re in great danger of ghettoising the audience, and you end up preaching to the converted rather that drawing in new people in and introducing them to ideas…” Brian Cox

“I’d like to think that what science communication might be going forward – would include more of a direct statement of relevance to how we live our lives, to the role that science plays in politics, to the survival of our species…” Neil deGrasse Tyson

People Don’t Trust Scientific Research When Companies are Involved

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By John C. Besley, Michigan State University; Aaron M. McCright, Michigan State University; Joseph D. Martin, University of Leeds; Kevin Elliott, Michigan State University, and Nagwan Zahry, Michigan State University

People seem to think industry-funded research belongs in the garbage.
mllejules/Shutterstock.com

A soda company sponsoring nutrition research. An oil conglomerate helping fund a climate-related research meeting. Does the public care who’s paying for science?

In a word, yes. When industry funds science, credibility suffers. And this does not bode well for the types of public-private research partnerships that appear to be becoming more prevalent as government funding for research and development lags.

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Fake News, Echo Chambers and Filter Bubbles: Underresearched and Overhyped

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By William H. Dutton, Michigan State University

Don’t panic: An international survey finds concerns about fake news are overblown. studiostoks/shutterstock.com

In the early years of the internet, it was revolutionary to have a world of information just a click away from anyone, anywhere, anytime. Many hoped this inherently democratic technology could lead to better-informed citizens more easily participating in debate, elections and public discourse.

Today, though, many observers are concerned that search algorithms and social media are undermining the quality of online information people see. They worry that bad information may be weakening democracy in the digital age.

The problems include online services conveying fake news, splitting users into “filter bubbles” of like-minded people and enabling users to unwittingly lock themselves up in virtual echo chambers that reinforce their own biases.

These concerns are much discussed, but have not yet been thoroughly studied. What research does exist has typically been limited to a single platform, such Twitter or Facebook. Our study of search and politics in seven nations – which surveyed the United States, Britain, France, Germany, Italy, Poland and Spain in January 2017 – found these concerns to be overstated, if not wrong. In fact, many internet users trust search to help them find the best information, check other sources and discover new information in ways that can burst filter bubbles and open echo chambers.

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