Science and its Publics
Editor: Alice R. Bell. Sarah R. Davies and Felicity Mellor
Date Of Publication: Jun 2008
The relationship between science and its publics has concerned commentators since science itself began. Yet in recent years, questions of how—and how should—science and society interact have come to particular prominence. A field of practice, initially dubbed ‘public understanding of science’ and later rebranded as ‘public engagement with science and technology’, has blossomed. But although academic studies have informed the development of this practical field, to date there has been little opportunity to take stock of the full breadth and variety of academic analyses of science communication.
In an attempt to reveal the richness of the nascent field of science communication studies, this volume presents critical interdisciplinary analyses of some of the many ways in which science intersects with its publics. From children’s science books to computer advertising, news media to lab talk, public engagement to science fiction—the sites, modes and meanings of public science are explored. Contributions draw on historical, cultural, science and media studies. All, however, follow science through popular culture, taking critical science studies out of the lab and into society.
Alice R. Bell holds degrees in History of Science and Sociology of Education, and is currently a research student in the Science Communication Group, Imperial College London, where she also lectures on science and the media. She has worked widely in science communication, chiefly with young audiences. She is in the final stages of a PhD entitled Science as Pantomime: Explorations in Contemporary Children’s Non-fiction Books, which focuses on the Horrible Science series. In addition to her interest in child/science relationships, she has published on anachronism and time travel in contemporary culture, branding in children’s literature, and the analysis of social boundaries.
Sarah R. Davies has degrees in Biochemistry and Science Communication, and a PhD examining “the public” of scientists’ talk and public engagement events. She has worked in exhibition development at London’s Science Museum and has taught science undergraduates about science communication at Imperial College London. Her publications include theoretical and empirical analyses of informal public dialogue events and descriptions of the complexity of scientists’ talk about science, the public, and communication. Based at Durham University’s Institute of Hazard and Risk Research, she is currently working on a project looking at lay ethics of nanotechnology. Her research interests include public engagement, informal science dialogue processes, and the use of the ethnography of speaking as a means of closely analysing discourse.
Felicity Mellor is a Lecturer in Science Communication at Imperial College London. She holds a PhD in theoretical physics and now works on the critical analysis of public science, especially popularisations of the physical sciences. Her most recent research has looked at the promotion of asteroids as threatening objects and the narrative continuity between this and the militarisation of space. Her research has been published in the journals Social Studies of Science and Public Understanding of Science.
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