The Future of Public Engagement

The facts never speak for themselves, which is why scientists need to "frame" their messages to the public.

By Matthew C. Nisbet & Dietram A. Scheufele

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1 Page is just one of several leaders who have called attention to the urgent need for new directions in science communication. Yet unfortunately, still missing from much of the general discussion is a systematic understanding of how the public uses the media to form opinions about science-related topics, and a strategy for moving forward.

The dominant assumption is that ignorance is at the root of conflict over science. According to this traditional "popular science" model, the media should be used to educate the public about the technical details of the issue in dispute. Once citizens are brought up to speed on the science, they will be more likely to judge scientific issues as scientists do and...

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