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date: 07 December 2019

Abstract and Keywords

For some, the science of science communication offers a hope for managing controversies in which the bulk of the scientific community perceives a clear set of facts but where other forces shape public policy. For others, understanding controversies is less instrumental but instead useful in explicating the ways in which science is embedded in society. Adapting the latter tradition to the science of science communication requires drawing insights from case studies that highlight historical and contextual factors but that may lack the predictive power sought by those who would manage controversy. Some recurring themes in the controversy literature include technical efficiency versus social equity, regulation versus freedom of choice, progress versus traditional values, and political priorities versus environmental sustainability. The challenge is creating a science of complex social contexts that is self-reflective about how it is shaped by the social and political forces it seeks to describe and, sometimes, manage.

Keywords: controversy, values, public policy, society, science of science communication, case studies, social context

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