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Young people and the images of science on websites

Final Report Summary - YOSCIWEB (Young people and the images of science on websites)

The main goal of YOSCIWEB (Young people and images of science and the internet) is to analyse how websites dedicated to the popularisation of science build and renew the social representation of science and scientists, particularly towards young people. The project therefore intends to go beyond the state of the arts, bringing a contribution in the sense of offering guidance/ innovation/ reference and best practices in order to improve science communication and to make science and scientific careers more attractive to young people.

Main conclusions

- Literature search and our focus group interviews show that negative stereotypical perceptions of science and scientists dominate.
- The internet does not seem to improve this negative stereotypical perception of science and scientists. With a few exceptions, most popular scientific websites (PSWs) among the 60 selected showed the stereotype image of science and male scientists.
- The young people did however make very clear what they did and did not like about the 60 selected European popular scientific websites. Based on our interviews and the set of four variables (content, visual appeal, usability and interactivity), we have composed a list of important features as mentioned by the young people from 12 to 17 years old, which is available in the best practices and recommendations guide.
In short, the internet does currently not yet provide additional value for young visitors when it comes to science and science careers. The YOSCIWEB project however, also makes clear that PSWs are not the only manner to link young people with science on the Internet.

The YOSCIWEB project has identified a set of recommendations, which help to create a popular scientific website, which would be liked by young people. Below you can find a short summary of these:
- Show a positive image (both in words and image of science and scientists) and show that scientists are also just normal people.
- The text on science websites should be informative without being too difficult to read or boring.
- Identification of websites should be clear, whether it is in the domain name, title or design.
- Credibility of information presented is increased by providing references to hosting institutions, the authors and the editorial board.
- Interesting pictures or figures can enhance the appeal of the content and provide a valuable visual representation of the subject.
- Content should also be relevant with regard to age and gender and make sure this also applies to images and other multimedia, as well as links.
- For young people, school-related tasks are often the motivation for searching scientific information.
- Websites should be visually attractive without being too flashy or crowded.
- Use of multimedia is instrumental in creating a good science website.
- There should be good alternative ways to get the content on websites, besides visiting the site itself.
- Easy navigation is important, especially when it is kept in mind that young users may get lost more easily than adults.
- Science websites are recommended to use more social interactive elements that can be used to share information on scientific topics, both between young people themselves and between them and the editors of websites.

Public policy makers such as ministries and local governments in the field of science, science education and school education might develop a list of policy options, with a broader range than just initiating, encouraging and supporting the development of PSWs. We suggest a few options for consideration:
- Include popular science in online school curricula
- Use social networks for science
- Incorporate search engines and Wikipedia in marketing strategies.

Project website:
Contact details: Ms Laure Chemery, Conseil general de l'Essonne (France), Scientific representative of the project's coordinator, +33 1 6091 9535

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