Science Communication Ethics: State of the Art

Call for Papers

We live in a world highly dependent on science and technology, one that has been substantially modified by their application. As a result, communicating about science and understanding the complex relationship between science and society has gained ever-increasing importance. Yet, too often the focus of this research has been on the effectiveness of communicating science to non-experts, such as how to increase the understanding or acceptance of science. What have remained overlooked are the ethical considerations underlying this communication process.  How ought science be communicated to non-expert audiences? What are the obligations of scientists and science communicators? What normative principles or standards should be respected in this sphere?

These questions were raised at the third Iowa State University Summer Symposium on Science Communication in the summer of 2013. In the course of organizing and conducting this event, it became increasingly clear that while scholarship on these overlooked ethical issues is growing, it remains scattered and on the periphery of science communication scholarship. As a result, the decision was made to pursue the creation of a theoretically informed collected volume on science communication ethics as a means to extend and share this work with audiences in science communication studies, science communication practice, science and technology studies, and the broader scientific and science policy communities.

The collected volume we plan will be open to scholars in all disciplines (as well as interested practitioners) who are able to connect their analyses to broader issues of theory in considering problems such as these:

●          What are the underlying goals of science communication?
●          What are the boundaries of appropriate advocacy and promotion?
●          When are appeals to emotion ethical?
●          When everyone can be a (science) journalist, does anything go?
●         What ethical obligations do scientists have to communicate to broader publics?
●          What ethical requirements should govern discussions of risks, benefits, “facts,” and uncertainties?
●          How can public engagement be encouraged, and are some forms more valuable than others?
●          What is the role of the political process in the management of science and technology?
●          How can empirical work on the perceptions of ethics and related issues among various stakeholders and on effective teaching strategies for ethics contribute to clarity in this domain?

We invite contributions of 5000-7000 words that consider one of these or any other issue in the ethics of science communication and that are explicitly informed by some aspect of theory taken from the social sciences or humanities. The submission of ideas or extended abstracts to any of the editors for comment well prior to this deadline is strongly encouraged.

Papers should be submitted no later than October 15, 2014, to the volume’s lead editor, Dr. Susanna Priest ( Questions may be addressed to her or to co-editors Jean Goodwin ( or Michael Dahlstrom (

The fourth ISU Summer Symposium (29-31 May, 2014) is also open for scholars to receive feedback on early versions of work that might be considered for this collection. For information on this summer’s event, see