UCL Department of Science and Technology Studies is an interdisciplinary centre for the integrated study of science's history, philosophy, sociology, communication and policy, located in the heart of London. Founded in 1921. Award winning for teaching and research, plus for our public engagement programme. Rated as outstanding by students at every level.

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Entradas, Marta

Entradas, Marta C.d.F. 

PhD Thesis completed

2011

open access (link)

Title

Who’s for the planets? An analysis of the "public for space exploration" and views of practitioners of science communication on "their publics" and public communication in the UK.

Abstract

Over the last decade, there has been a fundamental revolution in how science should be communicated to the public. Science communication has been built around a changing preference for “dialogue” where the public, formerly conceived as having a passive role, is now seen as an active player in the communication process. However, there are fundamental questions arising from this revolution concerning the role of the public and the science communicator, and the practice of science communication itself. I take a look at the way in which this transformation has been reflected in the communication of astronomy and space exploration to the public from the perspective of social sciences by drawing on empirical qualitative and quantitative data. I examine the characteristics of the “public for space exploration” and the views of those doing science communication on “this public” and public communication to provide as complete a picture as possible of the current meaning of science communication in the area of ‘space’ in the UK. I show that practitioners who deal with “the public for space exploration” assume a gatekeeper role as they try to control public communication rather than simply pass on information. The science communication practice in the ‘space’ scene involves both one-way and two-way communication activities that serve different aims of public communication to target different audiences. I argue that rather than competing, both models should be seen as complementing paradigms in the practice of communication of ‘space’ with the public. Consequently, outreach activities can be characterized as “preaching to the converted” – they attract the “public for space exploration” who is more likely to be part of the “attentive/interested” publics and that bring with them less attentive/interested publics, which otherwise would be very difficult to reach through other means.

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