public policy

Identifying what matters: Science education, science communication, and democracy

Bruce V. Lewenstein

Many people believe that both public policy and personal action would improve with better access to “reliable knowledge about the natural world” (that thing that we often call science). Many of those people participate in science education and science communication. And yet, both as areas of practice and as objects of academic inquiry, science education and science communication have until recently remained remarkably distinct. Why, and what resources do the articles in this special issue of JRST give us for bringing together both the fields of practice and the fields of inquiry?

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Social Representations of Brain Research: Exploring Public (Dis)engagement With Contemporary Neuroscience

Cliodhna O’Connor, Helene Joffe

Recent years have seen a major expansion of the position of neuroscience in the mass media, public policy, and legal dialogue. Drawing on interviews with 48 London residents, this article examines how people with no prior involvement with neuroscience make sense of the concept of “brain research.” Thematic analysis of the data furnished little evidence that neuroscience has meaningfully infiltrated lay thinking. Respondents consigned brain knowledge to the “other world” of science, which was seen as a decidedly separate social milieu. They envisioned that the only route by which they might become alert to brain information would be if they developed a neurological illness. This article considers the social and psychological dynamics that shape neuroscience’s dissipation into public consciousness.

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