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The December 2009 edition of the Journal of Science Communication is now online with some intriguing articles – all Open Access so you can download all the PDFs and read:

Control societies and the crisis of science journalism:

In a brief text written in 1990, Gilles Deleuze took his friend Michel Foucault’s work as a starting point and spoke of new forces at work in society. The great systems masterfully described by Foucault as being related to “discipline” (family, factory, psychiatric hospital, prison, school), were all going through a crisis. On the other hand, the reforms advocated by ministers throughout the world (labour, welfare, education and health reforms) were nothing but ways to protract their anguish. Deleuze named “control society” the emerging configuration.

Science cafés. Cross-cultural adaptation and educational applications:

Tokyo Institute of Technology (TokyoTech) has been developing a number of methodologies to teach graduate students the theory and practice of science communication since 2005. One of the tools used is the science café, where students are taught about the background based primarily on theoretical models developed in the UK. They then apply that knowledge and adapt it the Japanese cultural context and plan, execute and review outcomes as part of their course. In this paper we review 4 years of experience in using science cafés in this educational context; we review the background to the students’ decision-making and consensus-building process towards deciding on the style and subject to be used, and the value this has in illuminating the cultural influences on the science café design and implementation. We also review the value of the science café as an educational tool and conclude that it has contributed to a number of teaching goals related to both knowledge and the personal skills required to function effectively in an international environment.

Science comics as tools for science education and communication: a brief, exploratory study:

Comics are a popular art form especially among children and as such provide a potential medium for science education and communication. In an attempt to present science comics in a museum exhibit I found many science themed comics and graphic books. Here I attempt to provide an overview of already available comics that communicate science, the genre of ‘science comics’. I also provide a quick literature review for evidence that comics can indeed be efficiently used for promoting scientific literacy via education and communication. I address the issue of lack of studies about science comics and their readers and suggest some possible reasons for this as well as some questions that could be addressed in future studies on the effect these comics may have on science communication.

Science on television: how? Like that!:

This study explores the presence of science programs on the Flemish public broadcaster between 1997 and 2002 in terms of length, science domains, target groups, production mode, and type of broadcast. Our data show that for nearly all variables 2000 can be marked as a year in which the downward spiral for science on television was reversed. These results serve as a case study to discuss the influence of public policy and other possible motives for changes in science programming, as to gain a clearer insight into the factors that influence whether and how science programs are broadcast on television. Three factors were found to be crucial in this respect: 1) public service philosophy, 2) a strong governmental science policy providing structural government support, and 3) the reflection of a social discourse that articulates a need for more hard sciences.

Often overlooked: formative evaluation in the development of ScienceComics:

Formative evaluation should play a key role in the development of a science communication project or initiative. Such research is vital to understanding the needs and interests of the audience or participants; meeting these needs and interests helps ensure the project’s success. However, there can be a temptation to plough ahead without undertaking adequate formative evaluation. Using ScienceComics (www.sciencecomics.uwe.ac.uk) as a case study, this article explores both the challenges and benefits of using formative evaluation to guide project development. It focuses on the actors involved in the formative stages and the impacts these actors had on the final outputs. This evidence is used to develop practical guidance on integrating formative evaluation right from the start.

Socialization of scientific and technological research: further comments:

Research systems are increasingly required to be more practically oriented and to address issues which appear more promising in economic and social results, with special reference to trans-disciplinary research fields, such as nanotechnology or ICTs; policy makers show a sharp tendency to establish research priorities and to drive research systems; universities and research institutions are asked to be more transparent and open to dialogue with social actors on contents, impacts, ethical implications and practical applications of scientific and technological research. These transformations affecting both the ways in which science and technology are produced and their relationships with society pose new challenges to European research. All the aspects of research activities are concerned, including the life of the research groups, the approaches to scientific evaluation, the development of European research policies and the interaction between researchers with their social environment. Continuing a reflection started in the last issue of JCOM, Luisa Prista, Evanthia Kalpazidou-Schmidt, Brigida Blasi, Sandra Romagnosi and Miguel Martínez López offered their contribution in identifying some of the key implications and risks which these changes are bringing about, mainly in the perspective of the construction of the European Research Area.

Too much power to the networks:

In his latest book titled “Communication power”, the famous sociologist of information society Manuel Castells focuses on the way in which power takes shape and acts in information societies, and the role of communication in defining, structuring, and changing it. From the rise of “mass self-communication” to the role of environmental movements and neuropolitics, the network is the key structure at play and the main lens used to analyse the transformations we are witnessing. To support his thesis Castells links media studies, power theory and brain science, but his insistence on networks puts in danger his ability to give to his readers a comprehensive and coherent interpretative framework.

The brain seduction: the public perception of neuroscience:

The increasing number of magazine covers dedicated to brain studies and the success of magazines and scientific journals entirely dedicated to brain and mind indicate a strong interest on these themes. This interest is clearly surpassing the boundaries of scientific and medical researches and applications and underlines an engagement of the general public, too. This phenomenon appears to be enhanced by the increasing number of basic researches focusing on non-health-related fMRI studies, investigating aspects of personality as emotions, will, personal values and beliefs, self-identity and behaviour. The broad coverage by the media raises some central questions related to the complexity of researches, the intrinsic limits of these technologies, the results’ interpretative boundaries, factors which are crucial to properly understand the studies’ value. In case of an incomplete communication, if those fundamental interpretative elements are not well understood, we could register a misinterpretation in the public perception of the studies that opens new compelling questions. As already observed in the past debates on science and technologies applications, in this case, too, we assist to a communicative problem that set against scientific community on one side and media, on the other. Focusing our attention, in particular, on the debate on fMRI, taken as a good model, in the present letter we will investigate the most interesting aspects of the current discussion on neuroscience and neuroscience public perception. This analysis was performed as one of the bid – brains in dialogue – activities (www.neuromedia.eu). bid is a three year project supported by the European Commission under the 7th Framework Program and coordinated by Sissa, the International School for Advanced Studies of Trieste, aimed at fostering dialogue between science and society on the new challenges coming from neuroscience.


  1. #1 Ian
    December 18, 2009

    That looks really cool. Looks like I should be reading that journal on a regular basis.