Scientific Research on Science Communication

Scientific Research on Science Communication

Communicating science depends on a firm foundation of scientific evidence. Without seeking out literature to expand on our understanding, we are likely to become over-confident in our own intuitions and assumptions. The field of science communication is highly intriguing since the research findings are so often counter-intuitive. Some of our approaches to communication may seem highly effective, yet they end up having unknown counter-productive effects. Below you will find a small, but frequently updated, sample of scientific literature investigating science communication itself as well as related topics such as social media and psychological effects. You’ll also find this article and others within our Nodes of Science Library.

Written by: Knigel Holmes
Photo credit: Hiné Mizushima | CC

Scientific Literature Researching Science Communication
  • PNAS has a very useful collection that offers an overview of scientific research on science communication. This collection also provides a good introduction to many of the leading researchers in the field, so it’s good to mark down and follow their names to see what else they’ve written. Most importantly, all of these are full studies and offered for free.
  1. The science of science communication I
  2. The Science of Science Communication II
  • Dan Kahan and The Cultural Cognition Project have an amazing amount of literature that adds tremendous depth to the scientific investigation of science communication. This work is important because it challenges a lot of pre-existing notions and offers a lot of counter-intuitive findings.
  • Public Understanding of Science: “Public Understanding of Science is a fully peer reviewed, quarterly international journal covering all aspects of the inter-relationships between science (including technology and medicine) and the public. Topics Covered Include: popular representations of science, scientific and para-scientific belief systems, science in schools, history of science, education of popular science, science and the media.”
  • An Introduction to Social Media for Scientists: “Online social media tools can be some of the most rewarding and informative resources for scientists—IF you know how to use them.”
  • Bik HM, Dove ADM, Goldstein MC, Helm RR, MacPherson R, Martini K, et al. (2015) Ten Simple Rules for Effective Online Outreach. PLoS Comput Biol 11(4): e1003906. doi:10.1371/journal.pcbi.1003906
    Direct link to PLOS paper

    • Abstract: “Online science outreach is paradoxically both easy and difficult. While anyone can start a blog and post updates to Twitter, it can be extremely challenging to establish a long-term following and demonstrate solid measures of success. A daunting number of online tools and platforms exist, and choosing where to start can be a difficult task in itself (for an explanation and guide to online tools). As practicing scientists who have contributed to the highly visited marine science blog Deep-Sea News (DSN) for up to nine years, we provide guidance on how scientists, who often have minimal excess time and more pressing priorities, can maximally utilize new media tools. Here, we describe ten rules for conducting effective online outreach, so that other scientists can also enjoy the advantages of disseminating their knowledge and expertise through social media.”
  • Darling ES, Shiffman D, Côté IM, Drew JA. (2013) The role of Twitter in the life cycle of a scientific publication. PeerJ PrePrints 1:e16v1
    Link to paper
    PDF to paper

    • Abstract: “Twitter is a micro-blogging social media platform for short messages that can have a long-term impact on how scientists create and publish ideas. We investigate the usefulness of twitter in the development and distribution of scientific knowledge. At the start of the ‘life cycle’ of a scientific publication, twitter provides a large virtual department of colleagues that can help to rapidly generate, share and refine new ideas. As ideas become manuscripts, twitter can be used as an informal arena for the pre-review of works in progress. Finally, tweeting published findings can communicate research to a broad audience of other researchers, decision makers, journalists and the general public that can amplify the scientific and social impact of publications. However, there are limitations, largely surrounding issues of intellectual property and ownership, inclusiveness and misrepresentations of science ‘sound bites’. Nevertheless, we believe twitter is a useful social media tool that can provide a valuable contribution to scientific publishing in the 21st century.”