, Volume 13, Issue 12, pp 7041-7055
Date: 05 Nov 2011

Leading US nano-scientists’ perceptions about media coverage and the public communication of scientific research findings

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Abstract

Despite the significant increase in the use of nanotechnology in academic research and commercial products over the past decade, there have been few studies that have explored scientists’ perceptions and attitudes about the technology. In this article, we use survey data from the leading U.S. nano-scientists to explore their perceptions about two issues: the public communication of research findings and media coverage of nanotechnology, which serves as one relatively rapid outlet for public communication. We find that leading U.S. nano-scientists do see an important connection between the public communication of research findings and public attitudes about science. Also, there is a connection between the scientists’ perceptions about media coverage and their views on the timing of public communication; scientists with positive attitudes about the media are more likely to support immediate public communication of research findings, while others believe that communication should take place only after research findings have been published through a peer-review process. We also demonstrate that journalists might have a more challenging time getting scientists to talk with them about nanotechnology news stories because nano-scientists tend to view media coverage of nanotechnology as less credible and less accurate than general science media coverage. We conclude that leading U.S. nano-scientists do feel a sense of responsibility for communicating their research findings to the public, but attitudes about the timing and the pathway of that communication vary across the group.