Online communication beyond the scientific community: Scientists' use of new media in Germany, Taiwan, and the United States to address the public
Many communication researchers expect that the diffusion of the new media in modern societies creates new channels of communication that can be used as alternatives or supplements to traditional forms of science communication. Conclusive empirical evidence of scientists' appreciation and use of these new channels for public communication is rare, however. This study aims to contribute to the understanding of the role the new online media – in particular blogs – play for public science communication compared to traditional science communication in journalistic mass media. The focus of this study is on scientists' involvements in different old and new forms of science communication and on how this involvement differs across cultures. The results presented in this dissertation are based on an international online survey of scientists in Taiwan, Germany and the United States. For each country, 1,500 scientists were selected from the database "Science Citation Index Expanded" on the basis of their authorship of publications in international scientific journals in the fields of natural sciences, medicine and engineering, using a stratified random sampling scheme. The response rates were 21.5% (Germany), 23.1% (USA) and 22.8% (Taiwan). Of the three countries, the proportion of blogging scientists is highest in the United States (8%), followed by Taiwan (5%) and Germany (4%). A majority of blogging scientists publishes blog posts only every few weeks or less frequently. The difference in the prevalence of blogging among scientists in Germany and USA is well explained by different levels of diffusion of online media. A plausible explanation for the low level of activities among Taiwanese scientists is that they assign less priority to public communication than German and US scientists. This study suggests that blogging currently plays only a limited role as part of public science communication activities. The number of blogging scientists is small and blogging is a peripheral activity for those who blog. The role of blogging for increasing public engagement with science seems to be limited.
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