Professor of Science Communication
Dr. Bruce V. Lewenstein is a widely-known authority on public communication of science and technology–how science and technology are reported to the public and how the public understands controversial scientific issues and "emerging technologies" such as biotechnology and nanotechnology. Trained as a historian of science, he often uses historical case studies in his research. He has also done extensive work evaluating "citizen science" outreach projects, in which citizens fully participate in the scientific process by gathering, entering, and sometimes analyzing scientific data. In recent years, he has helped connect the "public communication" field with the "learning sciences" field, especially around issues of public engagement in science. He works frequently with scientists learning more about public communication of science and technology.
I work primarily on the history of public communication of science, with excursions into other areas of science communication (such as informal science education). In general, I try to document the ways that public communication of science is fundamental to the process of producing reliable knowledge about the natural world.
Since the mid-1990s, I have spent some time as an evaluator of informal science education projects, especially in areas of “citizen science.”
During the 2000s, I spent some time exploring social and ethical issues associated with emerging technologies such as genomics and nanotechnology.
Outreach and Extension Focus
My work has two areas of impact: (1) education for practitioners of public communication of science and technology and (2) shaping of policy research on public knowledge and attitudes towards science and technology. My audiences range from local groups seeking to improve their communication, to national associations, to international settings where students and practitioners gather. Both the education and the policy work are tools of leverage, which ultimately contribute to better public understanding of science and technology.
Courses taught since 2008
Comm 1101, Cases in Communication
Comm 2850, Communication, Environment, Science & Health
Comm 3520/3020, Science Writing for Media
Comm 3530/3032, Science Writing Practicum
Comm 4660, Public Communication of Science and Technology
Comm 5660, Science Communication Workshop
Comm 6660, Public Engagement in Science and Technology
My goal as a teacher is to help students learn to think. Yes, there's a body of knowledge I'd like them to learn, a set of skills I'd like them to take away, a particular argument I'd like them to know. But in the end, most of the students I teach won't be in positions to use that particular knowledge, those skills, or that argument. They should, however, after my courses be better able to cope with the knowledge, skills, or arguments they do face.
- Shirk, J. L., Ballard, H. L., Wilderman, C. C., Phillips, T., Wiggins, A., Jordan, R., McCallie, E., Minarchek, M., Lewenstein, B. V., Krasny, M. E., & Bonney, R. E. (2012). Public Participation in Scientific Research: A Framework for Intentional Design. Ecology and Society. 17:29-48.
- Lewenstein, B. V., Baram-Tsabari, A., & Laslo, E. (2011). A Growth Medium for the Message: Online Science Journalism Affordances for Exploring Public Discourse of Science and Ethics. Journalism: Theory, Practice and Criticism. 12:847-870.
- Lewenstein, B. V. (1995). From Fax to Facts: Communication in the Cold Fusion Saga. Social Studies of Science. 25:403-436.
- Lewenstein, B. V. (1992). The Meaning of 'Public Understanding of Science' in the United States After World War II. Public Understanding of Science. 1:45-68.
- Lewenstein, B. V. (2009). Science Books Since 1945. p. 347-360 D.P. Nord, J. S. Rubin, & M. Schudson (ed.), Univ. North Carolina Press, Chapel Hill, NC.
- Kohlstedt, S. G., Sokal, M., & Lewenstein, B. V. (1999). The Establishment of Science in America: 150 Years of the American Association for the Advancement of Science. Rutgers Univ. Press, New Brunswick, NJ.