Thesis summary in English

Here is the half a page summary of my thesis. Of course, it’s a bit short compared with the 400 pages of the full dissertation. I try to publish a mind map in English and short articles on specific points of my research, as soon as possible.

Historically, science museums and science centers have emerged as scientific and cultural institutions that detain scholarly knowledge, which confers them a certain authority. Currently, however, socio-scientific issues and new kinds of relationships between science and society put to challenge the modes of communication of these institutions. Then, how do these institutions deal with such issues? Do their staff members take a stand on these issues? In order to address these questions, this thesis examines the example of climate change. Two theoretical frameworks are mobilized: science communication approaches inspired by STS (Science and Technology Studies) which question the deficit model and the theory of arenas to study public problems. Four science museums and science centers are studied: Science Animation in Toulouse, Cap Science in Bordeaux, La Cité des Sciences et de l’Industrie in Paris and the Science Museum in London.

At least in France until 2009, climate change has been has been built on a consensus in the scientific, political and media arenas. Indeed, different actors converge around the same definition of the problem. The science museums and centers studied adopt a similar definition: scientific consensus as found in the conclusions of the IPCC, depolitisation of the problem, warning and call for action but no strong focus on the individual dimensions of the issue. The thesis identifies four models of communication: a mode of rupture, an informative mode, a reflexive and critical mode, and a solving. The professionals met during the study all take different positions. Nevertheless, most of them find it important to represent validated knowledge in an impartial way and refuse interventionist approaches. However, some elements of the displays studied revealed such an approach. A discourse concerned with alerts and calls for action was also at play. This contradiction might be a sign of the weight of the dominant definition of the problem of climate change, instituted as a cause without opponent. More generally, it could be explained by the importance of sustainable development as a new social and political norm.

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