Skip to main content
  • Get access
    Check if you have access via personal or institutional login
  • Cited by 128
  • Cited by
    This chapter has been cited by the following publications. This list is generated based on data provided by CrossRef.

    Allen, Barbara L. 2018. Strongly Participatory Science and Knowledge Justice in an Environmentally Contested Region. Science, Technology, & Human Values, p. 016224391875838.

    Bertuol-Garcia, Diana Morsello, Carla N. El-Hani, Charbel and Pardini, Renata 2018. A conceptual framework for understanding the perspectives on the causes of the science-practice gap in ecology and conservation. Biological Reviews, Vol. 93, Issue. 2, p. 1032.

    Slayton, Rebecca and Clark-Ginsberg, Aaron 2018. Beyond regulatory capture: Coproducing expertise for critical infrastructure protection. Regulation & Governance, Vol. 12, Issue. 1, p. 115.

    Labussière, Olivier and Nadaï, Alain 2018. Energy Transitions. p. 1.

    Hansson, Kristofer and Suneson, Ellen 2018. Vulnerable Normality: Popular Neuroimaging and the Discursive Logic of the (Dis)able(d) Brain. Culture Unbound: Journal of Current Cultural Research, Vol. 10, Issue. 1, p. 49.

    NAGASHIMA, Miori and WILLIAMSON, Piers R 2017. Risk Communication and the Disposal of Radioactive Debris: Answering Questions Without Questioning Answers. Social Science Japan Journal, Vol. 20, Issue. 2, p. 163.

    Whitney, Kristoffer and Kiechle, Melanie A. 2017. Introduction: Counting on Nature. Science as Culture, Vol. 26, Issue. 1, p. 1.

    Manyweathers, J. Field, H. Longnecker, N. Agho, K. Smith, C. and Taylor, M. 2017. “Why won’t they just vaccinate?” Horse owner risk perception and uptake of the Hendra virus vaccine. BMC Veterinary Research, Vol. 13, Issue. 1,

    Haran, Joan and O’Riordan, Kate 2017. Public knowledge-making and the media: Genes, genetics, cloning and Mass Observation. European Journal of Cultural Studies, p. 136754941668297.

    Allen, Barbara L. Ferrier, Yolaine and Cohen, Alison K. 2017. Through a maze of studies: health questions and ‘undone science’ in a French industrial region. Environmental Sociology, Vol. 3, Issue. 2, p. 134.

    Stoutenborough, James W. Vedlitz, Arnold and Xing, Xin 2016. Are all risk perceptions created equal? Comparing general risk assessments and specific risk assessments associated with climate change. Human and Ecological Risk Assessment: An International Journal, Vol. 22, Issue. 1, p. 50.

    Betancourt Mosquera, Wilfredo 2016. Expertos, metaexperticias y mediadores. Supervisión ética de la investigación en escenarios multidisciplinares. Revista Colombiana de Sociología, Vol. 39, Issue. 2,

    Poort, Lonneke and Bovenkerk, Bernice 2016. Symbolic Legislation Theory and Developments in Biolaw. Vol. 4, Issue. , p. 269.

    Harrop, Emily Kelly, John Griffiths, Gareth Casbard, Angela and Nelson, Annmarie 2016. Why do patients decline surgical trials? Findings from a qualitative interview study embedded in the Cancer Research UK BOLERO trial (Bladder cancer: Open versus Lapararoscopic or RObotic cystectomy). Trials, Vol. 17, Issue. 1,

    Mathews, Andrew S. and Barnes, Jessica 2016. Prognosis: visions of environmental futures. Journal of the Royal Anthropological Institute, Vol. 22, Issue. S1, p. 9.

    Lybecker, Donna L. McBeth, Mark K. and Stoutenborough, James W. 2016. Do We Understand What the Public Hears? Stakeholders’ Preferred Communication Choices for Discussing River Issues with the Public. Review of Policy Research, Vol. 33, Issue. 4, p. 376.

    Harrop, Emily Noble, Simon Edwards, Michelle Sivell, Stephanie Moore, Barbara and Nelson, Annmarie 2016. “I didn’t really understand it, I just thought it’d help”: exploring the motivations, understandings and experiences of patients with advanced lung cancer participating in a non-placebo clinical IMP trial. Trials, Vol. 17, Issue. 1,

    Keune, Hans Van Den Hazel, Peter and Bouder, Frederic 2016. Environmental Determinants of Human Health. p. 203.

    TATEISHI, Yuji 2015. How Should We Discuss Uncertainty in the Context of Environmental Issues?:. Japanese Sociological Review, Vol. 66, Issue. 3, p. 412.

    Suhay, Elizabeth Druckman, James N. Stoutenborough, James W. Vedlitz, Arnold and Liu, Xinsheng 2015. The Influence of Specific Risk Perceptions on Public Policy Support. The ANNALS of the American Academy of Political and Social Science, Vol. 658, Issue. 1, p. 102.

  • Print publication year: 1996
  • Online publication date: October 2009

1 - Misunderstood misunderstandings: social identities and public uptake of science


This chapter takes as its focus one very specific example of public interaction with science – the case of the hill sheep-farmers of the Lake District of northern England. They experienced radioactive fall-out from the 1986 Chernobyl accident which contaminated their sheep flocks and upland pastures. In an area dominated by a traditional and demanding hill-farming economy, they were restricted from selling their sheep freely (almost 100 farms are still under restriction). They also received intensive expert advice about the environmental hazards from the radiocaesium deposits, and the relationship of these to other such deposits from the nearby Windscale-Sellafield nuclear facilities and 1950s weapons testing fall-out. Fieldwork comprising mainly in-depth interviews with affected farmers and others provided data for analysis of the factors influencing the reception of scientific expertise by this sub-population.

In analysing the farmers' understanding of the science, it was immediately apparent that it would have been meaningless and utterly misleading to treat their response to its cognitive content – for example, the claim that radiocaesium from Chernobyl was clearly distinguishable from Sellafield emissions of the same radio–isotopes – as if separate from its social and institutional form. Examining how the scientific institutions framed the issue and the knowledge they articulated as science, identified certain commitments which were institutionalised and taken for granted, thus not deliberately introduced. They constituted the very culture of science as institutionalised and practised as public knowledge. These assumptions shaped the scientific knowledge, they were not extra to it; and they were built in as social prescriptions in the way the science was institutionalised and deployed.

Recommend this book

Email your librarian or administrator to recommend adding this book to your organisation's collection.

Misunderstanding Science?
  • Online ISBN: 9780511563737
  • Book DOI:
Please enter your name
Please enter a valid email address
Who would you like to send this to *