I’m not an expert on public understanding of science or science communication; however, I’ve certainly read enough to know that some of the statements constantly being rehashed are not only out of date, but have been repeatedly discredited through peer-reviewed empirical research.
(to be fair – I, too, trotted out some of these ideas before some of this research was pointed out to me *).
Myth 1: Scientists don’t want to talk to the public
They do. For example, in a decent sized (n=1354) international study of epidemiologists and stem-cell researchers, 60-70% have spoken with the media about their work in the past 3 years .
Myth 2: Lack of knowledge of scientific facts is why the public doesn’t support some scientific endeavors
This just doesn’t hold water in very large surveys done internationally over the past 20-30 years. There are lots of reasons why people don’t support, for example, GMOs or stem-cell research that have nothing to do with being able to correctly answer factual science questions. (see Allum and co-author’s work using GSS data in the US and equivalent in other countries –  is an example)
Myth 3: There’s nowhere to go for help and scientists are completely on their own in communicating with the public
There are entire fields of science communicators, technical writers, and science journalists – seriously. We don’t need to take productive bench scientists and keep them from doing science so that they can spend a ton of time learning how to communicate with the public. Work with someone who is a professional science communicator. If you are a scientist and you’d like to communicate with the public – fine. Take a workshop from AAAS. Get your professional society to host a workshop at the next annual meeting. Or, collaborate with your local science communication professional. Practice by blogging.
Myth 4: The Golden Era
Myth 5: The only education that matters is k-12
Lifelong learning has to be stressed in school. Seriously. Just think about how much science has changed since you were in k-12. I went to a small rural school – we still learned about “races”. We also learned about the 9 planets ðŸ˜‰
Myth 6: That science communication is a linear path, in which it is translated and dumbed down and transmitted to the public. (the “dominant view”)
I’ll leave this for  and .
BTW – Turns out that scientists read popularizations [3,4], too.
* You might ask: hey, aren’t you supposed to be studying for your comps which are just a few days away? To which I would respond: CRAP! I know!
Peters, H. P., Brossard, D., de Cheveigne, S., Dunwoody, S., Kallfass, M., Miller, S., et al. (2008). SCIENCE COMMUNICATION: Interactions with the mass media. Science, 321(5886), 204-205. doi:10.1126/science.1157780
Hilgartner, S. (1990). The dominant view of popularization: Conceptual problems, political uses. Social Studies of Science, 20(3), 519-539.
Paul, D. (2004). Spreading chaos: The role of popularizations in the diffusion of scientific ideas. Written Communication, 21(1), 32-68.
Lewenstein, B. V. (1995). From fax to facts: Communication in the cold fusion saga. Social Studies of Science, 25(3), 403-436. doi:10.1177/030631295025003001
Myers, G. (2003). Discourse studies of scientific popularization: Questioning the boundaries. Discourse Studies, 5(2), 265-279.
Allum, N., Sturgis, P., Tabourazi, D., & Brunton-Smith, I. (2008). Science knowledge and attitudes across cultures: A meta-analysis. Public Understanding of Science, 17(1), 35-54.