Science Communication and Democracy

Schiele, Bernard ; Marec, Joëlle Le ; Baranger, Patrick

Abstract

It should first be noted that the topic here is science communication and not scientific discourse. A primary scientific discourse is one produced by a researcher for another researcher. Science textbooks fall into this category, and such discourses are generally geared to specific audiences. Science communication, on the other hand, is not aimed at specialists but at a broader, more disparate, audience. This means that communications about science geared to lay audiences and delivered via various types of media, including the printed press, radio, television and the internet (Jacobi, 1999; Schiele, 2001), are received and interpreted in a cultural, institutional and political environment that is broader than the scientific context of the original discourse (Gregory & Bauer, 2003). They also get caught up in issues of professional communication and the general business of media and networks that generate a very heterogeneous social structure. Our focus here is on science communication in the areas of professional communication and media, apart from the strictly educational and cultural fields. This paper investigates contemporary modes of science communication in society. We wish to show that, contrary to the spirit of the Enlightenment, which fostered the free flow of ideas in the public sphere, making it a condition of democratic debate (Habermas, 1978), science communication is today beset by many and varied at-tempts to control it, and which ultimately threaten the relationship between science, an informed public, and the functioning of democracy.

Keyword(s)

Science Discourse, Democracy, Communication, Media and Journalism

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