Honors | Science and the Public (HON)
H228 | 28563 | Jutta Schickore
Meets with HPSC-X 223
Modern science is a highly specialized activity, pursued by trained
experts at research labs or universities. But of course, science is
not confined to the laboratory or academy. The outcome of scientific
research informs and shapes our society and culture at all levels.
We encounter science in the media, in museums, or in the court room.
Politicians, lawyers, and other professionals draw on, assess, and
sometimes seek to restrict scientific activity. This course explores
how science engages with the public, how the public engages with
science, and how the relation between science and the public has
changed over time. Beginning in the 18th century, we will focus on
three related topics.
The forms of engagement: How are complex scientific issues made
palatable to wider audiences? We will survey different forms of
science communication, such as popular lectures and magazines,
museum displays, novels, and films. We will discuss how audiences’
responses shape the course of science, and whether basic scientific
literacy is sufficient to understand and evaluate scientific
The sites of engagement: Where do the exchanges between scientists
and public audiences occur? We will consider sites and spaces such
as museums and zoos, cabinets of curiosity, lecture halls, court
rooms, and mass media. How do these sites facilitate – or perhaps
impede – the flow of information?
The purposes and effects of engagement: What are the goals of
science communication? Why do scientists, science educators, and
science journalists care about what non-scientists think about
science? Have these goals changed since the late 18th century? Why
might lay audiences engage with science; what are their interests