Focus 1: Science and the Media - Public Understanding of Science
The media play an important role in shaping public discourses including those involving issues related to science and technology. The traditional view of the popularization of science is being challenged in the new arrangement between science and the media that may be termed a closer science-media-coupling. Rather than determing the contents of popularization science is confronted with media that have their own criteria of what is important or true and construct their own reality. Scientists turn to the media in order to reach public and political attention and secure legitimacy. Research in this area focuses on the science-media interfaces, the representation of science in the media and the repercussions of the sciences' orientation to the media.
Focus 2: Discourses between Science, Politics and the Media
Environmental threats of global dimensions such as anthropogenic climate change or the loss of biodiversity have become news items. Widespread public attention for these topics has been desired by the scientific community as well as by environmental groups and concerned politicians and now appears as a success story. However, especially reporting in the mass media has also revealed the particular risks of this attention. Scientists frequently complain about misrepresentation of their cautious pronouncements and/or about short attention cycles among the media. A connected problem is that political legitimacy needed for unpopular decisions is dependent on a thorough public understanding and sustained attention. This has moved the specific problems of the communication between science, politics and the mass media into the focus of several research projects.
Focus 3: Dynamics of Knowledge
The study of the dynamics of knowledge is motivated by the observation that in knowledge societies certain concepts, ideas, or images are represented in the media and become all pervasive as fads or catch-words, focusing attention for a time, and either have enduring effects on discourses or disappear again. Research focuses on the spread and interaction of ideas and concepts back and forth from everyday domains of knowledge to scientific disciplines, and across different contexts of meaning. It reaches beyond the boundaries of the sociology of science and is conceived as a new direction in the sociology of knowledge.
Focus 4: Bibliometrics
The measurement and quantification of science is a key issue in modern science studies. Based on publication statistics and citation analysis, bibliometric methods provide most valuable tools for the production of science indicators. These indicators turn out to be important not only for studies in history and sociology of science, but also for purposes of science policy and administration. Combined with other measures and peer review, the indicators can be applied in the context of research evaluation. Advanced bibliometric methods like cocitation mapping can be used - far beyond the pure number-counting of publications and citations - to draw two-dimensional representations of the cognitive and social structures of specialities in science. In recent years the 'business' of indicator production is in danger of getting commercialized. It is therefore important to keep the quantitative methods closely linked to analytical and qualitative studies of science.