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Mapping mental models of science communication: How academics in Germany, Austria and Switzerland understand and practice science communication


Kessler, Sabrina Heike; Schäfer, Mike S; Johann, David; Rauhut, Heiko (2022). Mapping mental models of science communication: How academics in Germany, Austria and Switzerland understand and practice science communication. Public Understanding of Science, 31(6):711-731.

Abstract

The mental models that individual scholars have of science communication – how it works, what it is supposed to achieve and so on – shape the way these academics actually communicate to the public. But these mental models, and their prevalence among scholars, have rarely been analysed. Drawing on a large-scale, representative web survey of academics at universities in Germany, Austria and Switzerland ( n = 15,778) from 2020, we identify three mental models that are prevalent among scholars, and that correspond to conceptual models found in science communication theory: ‘Public Understanding of Science’, ‘Public Engagement with Science’ and ‘Strategic Science Communication’. The results suggest that the ‘Strategic Science Communication’ model is particularly prevalent among academics in precarious employment and female scholars. Extrinsically motivated academics, that is, those under pressure to win grants, also seem to use science communication more strategically. The ‘Public Engagement’ model is prevalent among older and female scholars, while ‘Public Understanding’ is particularly prevalent among scholars who find their work especially meaningful. Findings also reveal that academics’ mental models largely align with the way they practice science communication.

Abstract

The mental models that individual scholars have of science communication – how it works, what it is supposed to achieve and so on – shape the way these academics actually communicate to the public. But these mental models, and their prevalence among scholars, have rarely been analysed. Drawing on a large-scale, representative web survey of academics at universities in Germany, Austria and Switzerland ( n = 15,778) from 2020, we identify three mental models that are prevalent among scholars, and that correspond to conceptual models found in science communication theory: ‘Public Understanding of Science’, ‘Public Engagement with Science’ and ‘Strategic Science Communication’. The results suggest that the ‘Strategic Science Communication’ model is particularly prevalent among academics in precarious employment and female scholars. Extrinsically motivated academics, that is, those under pressure to win grants, also seem to use science communication more strategically. The ‘Public Engagement’ model is prevalent among older and female scholars, while ‘Public Understanding’ is particularly prevalent among scholars who find their work especially meaningful. Findings also reveal that academics’ mental models largely align with the way they practice science communication.

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Additional indexing

Item Type:Journal Article, refereed, original work
Communities & Collections:06 Faculty of Arts > Department of Communication and Media Research
Dewey Decimal Classification:070 News media, journalism & publishing
Scopus Subject Areas:Social Sciences & Humanities > Communication
Social Sciences & Humanities > Developmental and Educational Psychology
Social Sciences & Humanities > Arts and Humanities (miscellaneous)
Uncontrolled Keywords:mental models, public engagement with science, public understanding of science, science communication, strategic science communication
Language:English
Date:1 August 2022
Deposited On:15 Feb 2022 14:44
Last Modified:26 Jun 2024 01:54
Publisher:Sage Publications
ISSN:0963-6625
OA Status:Green
Free access at:PubMed ID. An embargo period may apply.
Publisher DOI:https://doi.org/10.1177/09636625211065743
PubMed ID:35014586
Project Information:
  • : FunderSNSF
  • : Grant IDBSSGI0_155981
  • : Project TitleSocial norms, cooperation and conflict in scientific collaborations
  • Content: Published Version
  • Language: English
  • Licence: Creative Commons: Attribution 4.0 International (CC BY 4.0)