Developing a Sociological Model to Improve Public Understanding of Science among Citizens (Case Study: Isfahan City)

Zahra Maher, Ali Rabbani Khorasgani


In recent years, along with attributing more importance to the knowledge and information, the presence of the  knowledgeable and well-informed manpower has gained significance and the existing level of knowledge and information among the common people of society has been considered as one of the preconditions and essential elements  of the development in that country. One of the important issues confronting the sociologists who analyze the sciences is how to present sciences in the mass media. Besides, today, communication in many different fields is held within the exclusive control of the mass media and these media are the only source of information for most of the people.The present study, therefore, aims to explain the quality of "public understanding of science and technology" among the Isfahanian people and to produce the required data for the evaluation of general knowledge of and attitude toward science and technology. In particular, this study deals with the mechanisms applied by mass media to enhance the public understanding of science and technology.

As to research methodology, the present study follows the purpose of obtaining the quantitative statistical results from one sample. a systematic interview in the form of a questionnaire with closed-end items was used for collecting the required data. The research population for this study is the residents (aged between 15 to 79 years) of the 15 regions of Isfahan city of whom the number is 1564553, based on the public census in 2014. As for determining the sample size, Cochrane equation was used and 630 participants were chosen for the interview using a quota sampling. The main hypothesis of the quantitative phase was made based on the structural equation modeling to examine the "mechanism of media contribution to the enhancement of public understanding of science among citizens". This hypothesis was tested using Amos software.

The results of this study are as follows:    

In the formulated Structural Equation Modeling, it was observed that the media increase the communicative competence of their addressees through translation and simplification of the scientific notions. Such an increase in the "addressees' competence in communicating with science", in turn, increases "their participation rate in the science and technology programs" and ultimately, enhances the public understanding of science and technology.  Media played also some part in "representing the cultural and intellectual bio-life prevailing in society" and reflecting the dominant intellectual atmosphere of society. On the other hand, results showed that the media which are the mediator agents within the network, could reinforce the features of the sciences supportive culture through the representation of cultural and intellectual atmosphere prevailing in society and this was another factor which had a mediator role in the contribution of media on the enhancement of public understanding of science. 

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