Computer models and the public's understanding of science: A case-study analysis

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

Abstract / Description of output

Many of the aspects of science which touch the public most deeply involve some degree of modelling (for example, the dispersion of pollutants, predicted climate change or the spread of flood waters), yet explicit analyses in the public understanding of science tradition (PUS) have seldom examined computerized scientific models. However, scientific models of all sorts are increasingly run on computers, often raising new obstacles to public understanding and participation. The availability of increasing computer power at declining cost makes the possibility of modelling all the greater; recently, UK local authorities and other regional executive bodies, as well as lobby groups, have been able to carry out their own modelling activities. Though the practicalities of modelling have received some attention from social scientists, it is clear that there are comparatively neglected questions about PUS in relation to public judgements of the accuracy and legitimacy of such models, and to their reception and use by the public. This paper examines the significance of these issues through a recent case study of a local authority-operated air-quality model in the British city of Sheffield.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)845-866
Number of pages22
JournalSocial Studies of Science
Issue number6
Publication statusPublished - Dec 1999


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