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Complexities of Rhetoric Interpretation in Science Communication



Parallel abstracts

The most common stumbling block in science communication is stakeholders' differing interpretations of scientific knowledge, which often leads to controversy. To describe the interpretation spectrum in science communication, we collected 50 questions raised by participants 188 seminars taught at a biomedical center in Taiwan on the theme of "medical science frontiers." Next, 28 people from different educational backgrounds, including life sciences, social science and humanities were recruited to classify those questions by their linguistic attributes. Two classification frameworks were used: (1) Question Content and Attribute Framework and (2) Thinking Structure Framework. Developed by the authors, the first one based on laboratory experiences consists of five categories: reasoning, essence, extensibility, justifiability and comparison. The second one emphasizes cognition and has four categories: overall conceptual architecture, data evaluation, logical judgment and "others." Consensus of participants' interpretations by group was roughly 40%. Interestingly, people changed their minds frequently over time. The difference between first and second interpretations on the same question set was higher than 60% in some cases. Subgroup consensus within each group was relatively stable and knowledge background- and personal tendency-dependent. Our results indicate that subgroup consensus-based dialogue in a focus group setting, language refinement and awareness of stakeholder interests may be useful in communication concerning controversial scientific issues.


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