An analysis of nanoscientists as public communicators

Anthony Dudo, LeeAnn Kahlor, Niveen AbiGhannam, Allison Lazard & Ming-Ching Liang

The American public remains unfamiliar with nanotechnology despite more than a decade of investment and development. Nanoscientists have an opportunity to contribute to public conversations about their work, and its potential implications, through their engagement with lay audiences and media professionals. Indeed, the leaderships of many professional scientific organizations have placed a renewed focus on the public communication of science, particularly in the light of drastic changes in the information landscape and the increasing politicization of many technological and scientific issues. However, we have a limited understanding of nanoscientists’ perceptions and behaviours regarding their participation in public communication. Here, we report survey results that provide an examination of the public communication behaviours of nanoscientists affiliated with the National Science Foundation’s (NSF) National Nanotechnology Infrastructure Network (NNIN), an integrated partnership of US research institutions designed to facilitate nanoscale research and development. Our results suggest that nanoscientists are relatively frequent public communicators who commonly associate their communication efforts with positive impacts on their professional success. We also identify a handful of characteristics that drive nanoscientists’ intentions to communicate with the public about nanotechnology.

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