, Volume 45, Issue 2, pp 201-215
Date: 04 Mar 2011

Mismatches between ‘Scientific’ and ‘Non-Scientific’ Ways of Knowing and Their Contributions to Public Understanding of Science

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Abstract

As differentiation within scientific disciplines increases, so does differentiation between the sciences and other ways of knowing. This distancing between ‘scientific’ and ‘non-scientific’ cultures reflects differences in what are considered valid and reliable approaches to acquiring knowledge and has played a major role in recent science-oriented controversies. Scientists’ reluctance to actively engage in science communication, coupled with journalists’ reliance on the norms of balance, conflict, and human interest in covering scientific issues, have combined to exacerbate public mistrust of science on issues like the measles-mumps-rubella (MMR) vaccine. The failure of effective communications between scientists and non-scientists has hindered the progress of both effective science and effective policy. In order to better bridge the gap between the ‘scientific’ and ‘non-scientific’ cultures, renewed efforts must be made to encourage substantive public engagement, with the ultimate goal of facilitating an open, democratic policy-making process.