Accepted Paper:

Museums and the challenge of promoting skeptical attitudes toward science  


Belen Laspra (University of Oviedo)

Paper short abstract:

This paper explores boundaries and challenges of Science Museums and Centers, specifically in Spain, in promoting more skeptical attitudes in public understanding of science, where this kind of attitudes seems more suitable to achieve a better dialogue among science and society.

Paper long abstract:

How Science Museums and Centers (SMCs) acknowledge science, how these portrayals of science are shaped to public and how public is conceived, may be better understood if we look at the paradigms of Public Understanding of Science (PUS) research proposed by Martin Bauer and colleges, with regards to attribution problems and proposals research.

A part far from negligible of STS research focuses on public understanding of science. The mainstreams understand PUS in terms of scientific knowledge plus positive attitudes. Instead of this, recent researches claim that deficit should become dialogue, and links PUS to critical attitudes; where 'criticism' does not mean rejection of science but skepticism, and can also fit with support attitudes towards science.

SMCs are a major informal mechanism for effecting PUS. They are environments where both scientific knowledge acquisition and development of certain attitudes about science are promoted. But their compromise to science communication has been affected by the well-known axiom of PUS 'the more you know the more you love it'. To move towards dialogue, SMCs should engage activities oriented to promote skeptical attitudes. To this end, this contribution reviews the concept of 'museum', 'science', 'public', and the relationships among them in the Spanish context; it also explores how these elements can be arranged in order to promote critical attitudes to science.

Research on science communication focused on SMCs has increasing, but in almost every publication concerning this issue, authors claim that more research is needed. In some way, this contribution aims to fulfill this gap.

Panel T032
Science Communication