Friday, February 03, 2006

Upcoming AAAS panel on "Public communication about scientific controversies" (St. Louis, MO)

Engaging the Public on Controversial Science: Adapting Communication Strategies to the Media and the Audience

DATE: Sunday, February 19, 2006
TIME: 3:30 PM - 5:00 PM

Many science advocates hope that the mass media might be an important vehicle for informal education, enhancing the ability of citizens to make informed decisions about science-related controversies. Public opinion research shows that, with few exceptions, commercial mass media contribute very little to improving public knowledge of either the science or the politics involved in these controversies. Part of the reason is that audiences process media content in highly selective ways, relying heavily on readily available media messages that confirm pre-existing views. Another reason is that market and political forces lead to news and entertainment content that is low on scientific information, but heavy on persuasive imagery and symbols. The challenge is for the scientific community to craft communication strategies that are sensitive to both the way citizens process messages and the way media messages about science are constructed. Panelists will summarize the results of several recent national surveys and analyses that explore the interaction between mass media content and public knowledge and attitudes about embryonic stem cell research, intelligent design, nanotechnology, and agricultural biotechnology. The results of the studies are summarized in the context of evaluating existing communication efforts and proposing new strategies for public engagement.

Matthew Nisbet, The Ohio State University
The Political Marketing of Science: The Communication Battles over Stem Cell Research and Intelligent Design
Dietram A. Scheufele, University of Wisconsin, Madison
Affective Public Opinion? Mass Media and Emotional Responses to Nanotechnology
James Shanahan, Cornell University
The Agricultural Biotech Debate: Competing Messages and Diverging Views on Genetically Modified Organisms
Dominique Brossard (Discussant), University of Wisconsin, Madison