Public Understanding of Science: Books Reviews

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Publishing and the Advancement of Science 




Michael Rodgers
Imperial College Press, 2014.
Reviewed by: Ullica Segerstrale
Michael Rodgers describes his ‘star scientists’ as multifarious individuals with many levels of intuition who naturally produce beautiful writing and structure. But beyond them is the intricate world of science book production, which has so far remained opaque to most. Rodgers’ observations of this world and its various personalities provide delightful reading and, for prospective authors, invaluable advice.

Biohackers: The Politics of Open Science 

Alessandro Delfanti
Pluto Press, 2013.
Reviewed by: Krishna Ravi Srinivas
This book is an excellent introduction to biohacking and its possible futures Delfanti argues how citizen biology is impacting on life sciences and points out the potential of citizen biology to contribute to open science. His analysis of DIY synthetic biology illustrates how biohackers are innovating in organizing for science and in translating ideas to practice.
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Emerging Infectious Diseases and Society 

Peter Washer
London: Palgrave Macmillan, 2014
Reviewed by: Declan Fahy
Peter Washer explains in this comprehensive book how a new branch of medicine - emerging and re-emerging infectious diseases (EID) -  was formed and how its ideas came to be understood by policymakers, funders and citizens.  But overall, the book’s rich synthesis of studies from medicine, sociology and psychology makes it an essential reference point for scholars examining EID’s history and social impacts.
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Spaceship Earth in the Environmental Age, 1960–1990 

Sabine Höhler
Pickering & Chatto, 2015
Reviewed by: Jon Turney
The book is organised around attributes of the Spaceship Earth, a home for humanity in an otherwise hostile, lifeless universe and a place of confinement, of constrained geospace and biospace. Each attribute is unpacked in an analysis that conjoins science and technology studies and environmental history. The results are a rich resource for anyone seeking insight into how humans, nature, environment and planetary existence were configured in this period.
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Media and the ecological crisis 

Richard Maxwell, Jon Raundalen and Nina Lager Vestberg
Routledge, 2015
Reviewed by: Liisa Antilla Kellems
The contributors investigate where and how a multitude of commercial forces wield great power in our digitally connected world, within such areas as media history, social movements, labour, design, art, and communication studies. They argue for a more thoughtful media frontier including improved consumer education. By exposing various material and physical links between our networked society, climate change, and the wider ecological crisis of our planet, they hope to raise ecological ethos and inspire an “electronic environmentalism.
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Successful Science Communication. Telling It Like It Is 

Sir Walter Bodmer, David J. Bennett and Richard C. Jennings 
Cambridge University Press, 2011.
Reviewed by: Jonathan Roberts
The book is described in the blurb as a ‘practical guide’ that aims to ‘provide a one-stop resource covering science communication in its many different forms’. To fulfil this aim, 35 different authors contribute 27 chapters, and they are separated into three sections: (1) What it helps to know beforehand; (2) Policy-makers, the media and public interest organisations; (3) What you can do and how to do it. The range of topics provides insight into areas as diverse as a history of popular science, science and the media, relations with patients. The first hand experience found in Successful Science Communication may be of particular use to those entering the field.
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Routledge Handbook of Public Communication of Science and Technology 

Massimiano Bucchi and Brian Trench
Routledge, 2014.
Reviewed by: Jonathan Roberts
This second edition of the Handbook outlines the main debates in the discipline of science communication, as well as providing a reflective and analytic perspective. This very informative book provides an accessible and academically rigorous overview of the broad range and contexts in which science communication takes place. The analytical and reflective approach found in the Routledge Handbook is likely to be of value to those coming to terms with the multidisciplinary approach to research in science communication and it is particularly helpful for understanding the multidisciplinary nature of science communication.
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Communicating Popular Science: From Deficit to Democracy 

Sarah Perrault
Palgrave Macmillan, 2013.
Reviewed by: Jonathan Roberts
Perrault’s case studies are taken from the annual compendia of the best of American science writing and from a guide for aspiring science writers. Her aim is to explore implicit and explicit strategies used in popular science writing. The author argues that many of the rhetorical strategies utilised in popular science writing are ultimately self-defeating and leaves the public less able to distinguish science from pseudoscience.
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Nanotechnology and the Public: Risk Perception and Risk Communication 

Susanna Hornig Priest 
Taylor & Francis, 2012
Reviewed by: Yves Laberge
Susanna Hornig Priest’s  book is  a strong contribution to the field of scientific communication, sociology of the environment, ethics and media studies, superior to most writings on these topics because it provides an overall, trans-disciplinary perspective on risk, keeping in mind essential dimensions such as ethics, governance and policies, without overlooking the bare, basic scientific facts. The author aptly demonstrates that risk related to scientific research remains real despite its invisibility. She warns that the Internet is far from being a valid source of infinite information and reliable warnings as what can be found easily online is too often the inaccurate, partial point of view of the military–industrial complex, biased lobbies or pressure groups.
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Networked Media, Networked Rhetorics: Attention and Deliberation in the Early Blogosphere   

Damien Smith Pfister
University of Pennsylvania Press, 2014
Reviewed by: Yves Laberge
The author concentrates on the politics of the blogosphere. Among many observations and theoretical insights, he concludes that blogs actually reframe, reinterpret and sometimes simplify facts because ‘citizens are involved in the process of rearranging, or remixing, extant symbol fragments’. Nevertheless, despite their uneven, sometimes invalidated and often unreliable contents, blogs about science remain influential and become more and more quoted outside the blogosphere, either by students or on radio stations.
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Social Networks and Popular Understanding of Science and Health: Sharing Disparities 

Brian G. Southwell 
Johns Hopkins University Press, 2013
Reviewed by: Yves Laberge
Brian Southwell’s book demonstrates a disparity between what readers note in the news and what they transfer to others via emails or Twitter. The book has a focus on information sharing, peer-to-peer forwarding of news and the circulation of ideas. It documents the ways that information about health and science spreads among people in different media, how it is shared and why it is not universally discussed.
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