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Centre for the History of Science, Technology and Medicine

Science communication

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Scientists have become increasingly involved in the production of movies and television shows. This production photo shows palaeontologist Jack Horner (right) on the set of Jurassic Park III.

Today the sciences, technology and medicine are linked to society through many different channels of communication. Science meets the public in public controversies which involve scientists as well as journalists, politicians and the citizenry as a whole. Debates on science communication have shifted from explaining science to the public to discussing science with the public. Therefore, much of the research in the area of science communication explores the structure, meanings, and implications of the public communication of science, technology and medicine (PCSTM). This means examining the contexts in which communication about science occurs, the motivations of and constraints on people involved in producing information about science for non-professional audiences, and the overall functions of public communication of science and technology.

Research in science communication also includes historic exploration of the factors that have influenced the rise of public science communication, including the rise of modern democratic political systems, the twentieth-century growth of 'big science', late twentieth-century shifts in medical research, and the role of scientific and medical inquiry in domains of public interest.

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The popularity of forensic television dramas has led to an increase in public knowledge about forensic science but also to unrealistic expectations for this technology.

Several members of the CHSTM staff are concerned with issues related to PCSTM from a contemporary or historical perspective; CHSTM also has a good working relationship with both the Museum of Science and Industry and The University of Manchester's Manchester Museum. One particular area of expertise for CHSTM is the communication of science, technology and medicine through fictional media including work on the production of fictional texts, the social and cultural study of fictional texts, the reception of fictional media, and the impact of fictional texts on scientific institutions.

Recent publications by CHSTM staff and students

William R Macauley. "Inscribing scientific knowledge: interstellar communication, NASA's Pioneer plaque and contact with cultures of the imagination, 1971-72". In Alexander C. T. Geppert, ed, Imagining outer space: European astroculture in the twentieth century. London: Palgrave Macmillan, forthcoming.

David A Kirby. "The future is now: diegetic prototypes and the role of popular films in generating real-world technological development". Social Studies of Science, 2009.

David A Kirby. "Hollywood knowledge: communication between scientific and entertainment cultures". In D Cheng et al, eds, Communicating science in social contexts. New York: Springer, 2008, 165-181.

Thomas Lean. "From mechanical brains to microcomputers: representations of the computer in Britain, 1948-1984". In Alice Bell, Sarah Davies and Felicity Mellor, eds. Science and its publics. Newcastle: Cambridge Scholars Publishing, 2008, 179-200.

David A Kirby. "Cinematic science: The public communication of science and technology in popular film". In B Trench and M. Bucchi, eds, Handbook of public communication of science and technology. New York: Routledge, 2008, 67-94.

David A Kirby. "The devil in our DNA: a brief history of eugenic themes in science fiction films". Literature and Medicine, 2007, 26(1), 83-108.

David A Kirby. "Scientists on the set: science consultants and communication of science in visual fiction". Public Understanding of Science, 2003, 12(3), 261-278.

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