Social Sciences in the Public Understanding of Science

Kumar, P.V.S.

Abstract

This essay locates the academic discourse of public understanding of science and technology (PUST) in the context of utopian ideologies of Western Democracies, and in the nationalist discourses on economic development. The role and scope of PUST in the globalised, networked world, buffeted by neoliberal ideologies is discussed in the next section. The internal history of PUST is documented through the conceptual phases in the development of its discourses, along with the epistemological differences – such as deficit model, public engagement and science in society. In the last section of the essay, I briefly deconstruct the conceptual and methodological aspects of PUST. While most of the researchers of PUST use social science concepts and methods to communicate (natural) science to lay publics, there is a general absence of communicating social science concepts to the lay publics. I posit a few ideas for the reasons of this lack of reflexive praxis by the PUST researchers and a few suggestions for way forward to inclusive social science communication within PUST.

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