The science communication environment: biotechnology researchers' discourse on communication
Merton, Eve (2009) The science communication environment: biotechnology researchers' discourse on communication. PhD thesis, Dublin City University.
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Communication is problematic for biotechnology because biotechnology uses or changes life processes, which leads us to question ourselves and our definitions of life — it is controversial. Yet, communication is crucial for engagement and understanding among research scientists and the wider community. This thesis examined the communication beliefs, attitudes and practices of researchers at the
National Institute for Cellular Biotechnology (NICB) in Ireland, using semi- structured, face-to-face interviews with 73 research scientists. The ensuing discourse
was used to gain an understanding of participants’ positioning in the landscape of the science communication environment and to explore issues surrounding the
communication of biotechnology in particular. I found that gender and seniority affect the type and degree of communication that took place. A range of factors had
reciprocal influences on the communication of researchers at the NICB, including the institution, the audience(s), pre-existing communication about science in the
wider community and the individual’s identity as a scientist. I found that research scientists at the NICB communicated about scientific knowledge and constructs, the
process and organisation of science, and the impacts of science on individuals and society. This communication was more complex than imagined by any science communication model alone. My argument is that full engagement with the doing of science by scientists and non-scientists occurs when these points are communicated in the science communication environment. I propose a humanist driver that is experienced by individual scientists who aspire to engage in science communication to share meanings and reinforce social ties — a driver that has perhaps been
neglected in previous models of science communication. Effective communication in the science communication environment is the key to ensuring that social and policy
decisions concerning science can be made under the best possible conditions, with input from everyone.
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