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

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.

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Notes

  1. 1.

    At the conclusion of a three-year public inquiry led by the UK General Medical Council, Wakefield and two of his colleagues were found to have engaged in ‘dishonest,’ ‘irresponsible,’ and, ultimately, unethical conduct in carrying out the research reported in their 1998 study (General Medical Council 2010). As a result of the hearing, Wakefield and another colleague were ‘struck’ from the medical register and are barred from practicing medicine in the United Kingdom. In February, 2010, The Lancet formally retracted Wakefield et al.’s paper.

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Correspondence to Anna Mikulak.

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Mikulak, A. Mismatches between ‘Scientific’ and ‘Non-Scientific’ Ways of Knowing and Their Contributions to Public Understanding of Science. Integr. psych. behav. 45, 201–215 (2011). https://doi.org/10.1007/s12124-011-9157-8

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Keywords

  • Science communication
  • Public understanding of science (PUS)
  • Framing
  • Public engagement