Project aims

The networks’ activity: mapping the
cultural authority of science

An international meeting (Royal Society, Nov 2007) a recent book (Bauer, Shukla & Allum, 2012) defines our agenda: a) exploit more fully the existing data and reinterpret the items; b) sophisticated comparative analysis, c) mobilising complementary data, e.g. mass media and activity monitoring. Follow-up meetings in Sofia (October 2008), Delhi (2009), Beijing (2010) and Sao Paulo (2010) extended this agenda globally. This Indo-European consortium pursues this agenda (Bauer, Shukla, Allum, 2012) with a position of global leadership.

a) Science culture index (SCI): comparative analysis of attitudes to science

The network will intensify comparative analysis of existing data on attitudes to science across Europe and India (1990-2010) by constructing local time-series data and cross-continental data integration. This Indo-European comparison is key to construct an index of science culture for a variety of contexts. The work will calibrate this index, test alternative metrics, and undertake comparisons of the different contexts of 32 European states and 23 Indian states. Several waves of National Surveys in India, 1991-2007 and five waves of Eurobarometer survey 1989-2010 are our main database, the most elaborate database for comparative analysis of science culture worldwide. The initial construction of SCI (Shukla & Bauer, 2007 and 2012) was an opening gambit; through this project we will further integrate the data and develop systematic comparison, and re-interpretation of survey items which were collected mostly under a literacy agenda, in terms of the cultural authority of science (attention, competence, expectations, engagement).

Competence development includes micro-integration of survey data, latent class and latent trait modelling (Stares), forms of logistic regressions (Shukla), and multi-level modelling (Rai; Stares), developing  equivalent scales for purposes of comparison. Other experts at the LSE Methodology Instituten NCAER and at IASRI will be invited to contribute.


b) Comparative-longitudinal mapping of science news

Much has been achieved with nationally representative survey data, but public opinion does not reside exclusively in attitude surveys. Respondents answer questions on the basis of internal (cognitive and emotional) dispositions and external resources, i.e. news information. Our previous studies map science news comprehensively (see Bauer et al, 1995; Petkova et al, 1997; Bauer et al, 2006 on UK and Bulgaria). Patterns of science news are a feature of the modern public sphere, and print media are now easy accessible in complete (digital) archives. The bottleneck of research has moved from corpus construction to the analysis. The challenge is to map the discourse of science and to compare tools for doing so. The second work module will construct a joint-test corpus of science news (1990-2010), matching the time period of our attitude database, extending earlier work in the UK (1946-1994; Bauer et al. 1995), and comprising news outlets such as Guardian/Observer; Telegraph/Sunday Telegraph (UK), FAZ, Sueddeutsche Zeitung, Spiegel, Zeit (Germany); The Hindu, The Times of India, The Indian Express, Economic Times (India). We envisage a test corpus of around 1 Million words (ca 4-6000 articles) in total.

This corpus of science news will be analyzed with several software tools, such as ALCESTE, PAJEK, ATLAS/ti, AUTOMAP, WORDSTAT, QDIMinor and others. These new techniques allow us to conduct structural analysis on a co-occurrence model (Bicquelet). Semantic structures extracted from the text corpus are visualised as dynamic models (Suerdem). Text analysis profits from statistical data mining used in genome analysis (Anil Rai), and we will test the feasibility of continuous monitoring of science news through an automatic Thesaurus news retrieval system SAPO (Vogt et al., 2012).

The competence development of this module includes the training on different text analysis tools: theory and logic of discourse analysis (Bielefeld); ALCESTE and ATLAS/ti (London); SAPO (Italy), network approaches (Turkey) and data mining of N-grams of text (Delhi). Other experts from Bielefeld and London will be invited to contribute.


c) Comparative case studies of the cultural authority of science

This project’s comparative logic is based on the relative ‘PUS age’ of the UK, Germany and various Indian regions (e.g. Kerala has a longer tradition of science mass mobilisation). The scientific communities have variably been mobilizing the public and have achieved different degrees of professionalization. Britain has a longer tradition and triggered the global debate on ‘Public Understanding of Science’ (Royal Society, 1985). Germany saw more initiatives since the mid 1990s, and professionalisation boomed 2001-07 (supported by VW, Bertelsmann and BASF; Hettweger H. et al., 2008). In India, starting in 1950 with the idea of fostering ‘scientific temper’ (Pattnaik, 1992; Sahoo 2010), the people’s science movement (PSM, since 1970s), and later All India People’s Science Network (AIPSN) is ‘bringing science to the people’. As part of civil society, PSM stimulates public debate (e.g. Bhopal 1984) and provides information (Sahoo, 2010). Indian scientific awareness is largely attributed to the PSM (see SciDev. Net, 06 July, 2011). India’s activities are sanctioned by official S&T Policy (2003) which aims to reawaken the “scientific temper” of every citizen. Our third module will richly illustrate these historical and socioeconomic differences of context. We envisage case studies of typical urban and rural life worlds in the UK, Germany and in India. The interface of living conditions, scientific information and everyday concerns will be gauged through focus group discussions, informal observations and other data. The analyses undertaken in the modules 1 and 2 will guide the identification of typical regions for in each context. We will commission 6 to 8 focus groups (two in each country, with 7-9 participants) and compare the status of science in everyday life. The competence development includes the conduct of focus group research and analysing such data qualitatively (London, Bielefeld). NCAER’s traditional strength is quantitative research. Through its new ‘Macro-Consumer Trend’ Centre it is keen to develop new methodology. The network will build this capacity for comparative qualitative research.

Organisational dispositive

The principle co-ordinator of the network will be Professor Martin W Bauer (LSE , London). He will have the administrative support at LSE and oversee planning, programming, and monitoring of staff exchanges, training, workshops and dissemination with the help of the steering group. All training and exchange activities will involve an internal approval and evaluation process. The three modules will be led by Shukla (module 1), Pansegrau (module 2) and Bauer (module 3), who also form the steering committee of the network. During the first year, Bauer will be on sabbatical leave and dedicate time to see that this project capitalises on its potentials and to make it a successful venture.

Measures of Success

Expected results and their significance

a) Establishing a joint Indo-European database for micro-analysis of science attitudes, 1990 to 2010. This will be a key resource for this network; it will be made publicly available for future research.

b) This joint database will serve as a core structure to which other data can potentially be added on; extension of the database depends on co-operation of other teams in these countries (Chinese, Brazilian, USA , Mexico, Argentina, Canadian, Malaysia, Australian etc.); This network funding will give us the credibility to achieve that.

c) Construction and validation of a ‘science culture index’ in Europe and India. Such an index has the potential to play a role similar to that of the HDI or OECD’s PISA index in stimulating national and regional debates.

d) Construct a joint corpus of science news for Europe and India, 1990–2010. This corpus will be annotated and tagged with meta-data, so that it can serve as a universal test corpus for science communication research.

e) On the basis of this corpus, the network will seek to calibrate an automatic, thesaurus based retrieval system for English language science news. This involves adaptation of a prototype software currently working in Portuguese (SAPO, Vogt et., 2012) and Italian (OBSERVA, Neresini).

f) The collaborative network will develop, standardise and test an efficient procedure for analysing the discourse of science by providing a methodology that can be used in different contexts.

g) The network will build joint capacity across Europe and India through mobilising expertise within and outside the groups through workshops, training and exchange of young research staff. Capacity building will happen at annual workshops to be held in London, Delhi and Bielefeld. Younger staff will spend longer periods of time in India, London or Bielefeld for purposes of training and career development.

h) Six case studies of rural-urban science culture in Europe and India, will illustrate different life worlds and the position of modern science therein.

i) The network will prepare a key-note symposium session for PCST -13, in Rio de Janeiro in 2014; thus moving on the agenda of this project globally. En route to this PCST event, we expect that the network will produced 3-4 key papers publishable in highly reputed social scientific journals. The network will also seek a presence at other scientific meetings, such as 4S or AAAS in North America and EASST or ESOF in Europe and similar venue’s in India.

j) The network will organise result dissemination events in London, Berlin and Delhi, in workshops for science policy makers.

Funding Organisations

Deutsche Forschungsgemeinschaft
Economic & Social Research Council
Indian Council of Social Science Research
Netherlands Organization for Scientific Research