Public awareness of science (PAwS), public understanding of science (PUS), or more recently, public engagement with science and technology (PEST) are terms relating to the attitudes, behaviours, opinions, and activities that comprise the relations between the general public or lay society as a whole to scientific knowledge and organisation. It is a comparatively new approach to the task of exploring the multitude of relations and linkages science, technology, and innovation have among the general public. While earlier work in the discipline had focused on augmenting public knowledge of scientific topics, in line with the information deficit model of science communication, the discrediting of the model has led to an increased emphasis on how the public chooses to use scientific knowledge and on the development of interfaces to mediate between expert and lay understandings of an issue.
The area integrates a series of fields and themes such as:
- Science communication in the mass media, Internet, radio, films and television programmes
- Science museums, aquaria, planetaria, zoological parks, botanical gardens, etc.
- Public controversies over science and technology
- Fixed and mobile science exhibits
- Science festivals
- Science fairs in schools and social groups
- Science education for adults
- Science and social movements
- Media and science (medialisation of science)
- Consumer education
- Citizen science
- Public tours of research and development (R&D) parks, manufacturing companies, etc.
- Science in popular culture
- Science in text books and classrooms
- Science and art
How to raise public awareness and public understanding of science and technology, and how the public feels and knows about science in general, and specific subjects, such as genetic engineering, bioethics, etc., are important lines of research in this area. Professor of communication, Matthew Nisbet, points up the challenge, for example, in terms of the paradox of the success of science and engineering creating the conditions that have led to the trust or distrust of experts among certain populations and that the correlation appears to be more socioeconomic than religious or ideological.
The Bodmer report
The publication of the Royal Society's' report The Public Understanding of Science (or Bodmer Report) in 1985 is widely held to be the birth of the Public Understanding of Science movement in Britain. The report led to the foundation of the Committee on the Public Understanding of Science and a cultural change in the attitude of scientists to outreach activities.
The contextualist model
In the 1990s, a new perspective emerged in the field with the classic study of Cumbrian Sheep Farmers' interaction with the Nuclear scientists in England, where Brian Wynne demonstrated how the experts were ignorant or disinterested in taking into account the lay knowledge of the sheep farmers while conducting field experiments on the impact of the Chernobyl Nuclear fall out on the sheep in the region. Because of this shortcoming from the side of the scientists, local farmers lost their trust in them. The experts were unaware of the local environmental conditions and the behaviour of sheep and this has eventually led to the failure of their experimental models. Following this study, scholars have studies similar micro-sociological contexts of expert-lay interaction and proposed that the context of knowledge communication is important to understand public engagement with science. Instead of large scale public opinion surveys, researchers proposed studies informed by Sociology of Scientific Knowledge (SSK). The contextualist model focuses on the social impediments in the bidirectional flow of scientific knowledge between experts and laypersons/communities.
The deliberative turn
The scholarly debate on public engagement with science developed further into analyzing the deliberations on science through various institutional forms, with the help of the theory of deliberative democracy. Public deliberation of and participation in science practiced through public spheres became a major emphasis. Scholars like Sheila Jasanoff argues for wider public deliberation on science in democratic societies which is a basic condition for decision making regarding science and technology. There are also attempts to develop more inclusive participatory models of technological governance in the form of consensus conferences, citizen juries, extended peer reviews, and deliberative mapping.
Measuring public understanding of science
Social scientists use various metrics to measure public understanding of science, including:
1. Factual knowledge
The Key assumptions is that the more individual pieces of information a person is able to retrieve, the more that person is considered to have learned.
Examples of measurement
- Recognition: Answering a specific question by selecting the correct answer out a list
- Cued Recall: Answering a specific question without a list of choices 
- Free Recall: After exposure to information, the study participant produces a list of as much of the information as they can remember 
2. Self-reported knowledge, perceived knowledge, or perceived familiarity
The key assumption is that emphasizes the value of knowledge of one’s knowledge.
Examples of measurement
- Scaled survey responses to questions such as "How well informed you would say you are about this topic?"
3. Structural knowledge
The nature of connections among different pieces of information in memory.
The key assumption is that the use of elaboration increases the likelihood of remembering information.
Examples of measurement
- Asking study participants to assess relationships among concepts. For example, participants free recall concepts onto the first row and column of a matrix, then indicate whether the concepts are related to each other by placing an “X” in the cell if they are not. Participants then rank the remaining open cells by their relatedness from 1 (only very weakly) to 7 (very strongly related) 
- Study participants answer questions designed to measure elaboration involved in a task, such as “I tried to relate the ideas I read about to my own past experiences” 
Mixed use of the three measures
- While some studies purport that factual and perceived knowledge can be viewed as the same construct, a 2012 study investigating public knowledge of nanotechnology supports separating their use in communications research, as they “do not reflect the same underlying knowledge structures."  Correlations between them were found to be low, and they were not predicted by the same factors. For example different types of science media use (television versus online) predicted different constructs 
- Factual knowledge has been shown to be empirically distinct from structural knowledge 
Government and private-led campaigns and events, such as Dana Foundation's "Brain Awareness Week," are becoming a strong focus of programmes which try to promote public awareness of science.
The UK PAWS Foundation dramatically went as far as establishing a Drama Fund with the BBC in 1994. The purpose was to encourage and support the creation of new drama for television, drawing on the world of science and technology.
The Vega Science Trust was set up in 1994 to promote science through the media of television and the internet with the aim of giving scientists a platform from which to communicate to the general public.
The Simonyi Professorship for the Public Understanding of Science chair at The University of Oxford was established in 1995 for the ethologist Richard Dawkins by an endowment from Charles Simonyi. Mathematician Marcus du Sautoy has held the chair since Dawkins' retirement in 2008. Similar professorships have since been created at other British universities. Professorships in the field have been held by well-known academics including Richard Fortey and Kathy Sykes at the University of Bristol, Brian Cox at Manchester University, Tanya Byron at Edge Hill University, Jim Al-Khalili at the University of Surrey and Alice Roberts at the University of Birmingham.
- ^ Savaget, Paulo; Acero, Liliana (2017). "Plurality in understandings of innovation, sociotechnical progress and sustainable development: An analysis of OECD expert narratives" (PDF). Public Understanding of Science. 27 (5): 611–628. doi:10.1177/0963662517695056. PMID 29298581.
- ^ Nisbet, Matthew (2018). "Divided Expectations: Why We Need a New Dialogue about Science, Inequality, and Society". Skeptical Inquirer. 42 (1): 18–19. Archived from the original on 2018-06-19. Retrieved 19 June 2018.
- ^ The Royal Society. "The Public Understanding of Science". The Royal Society. Retrieved 11 October 2015.
- ^ http://www.wellcome.ac.uk/doc_WTD004707.html
- ^ "House of Lords - Science and Technology - Third Report". parliament.uk.
- ^ Wynne, Brian (1996). "Misunderstood Misunderstandings: Social Identities and the Public Uptake of Science". In Alan Irwin; Brian Wynne (eds.). Misunderstanding Science? The Public Reconstruction of Science and Technology. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press. pp. 19–46.
- ^ Jasanoff, Sheila (2003). "Breaking the Waves in Science Studies: Comment on H.M. Collins and Robert Evans, 'The Third Wave of Science Studies'". Social Studies of Science. 33 (3): 389–400. doi:10.1177/03063127030333004.
- ^ Lövbrand, Eva, Roger Pielke, Jr. and Silke Beck (2011). "A Democracy Paradox in Studies of Science and Technology". Science, Technology, & Human Values. 36 (4): 474–496. doi:10.1177/0162243910366154.CS1 maint: multiple names: authors list (link)
- ^ a b c d e f g h i Eveland, William (2004). "How Web Site Organization Influences Free Recall, Factual Knowledge, and Knowledge Structure Density". Human Communication Research. 30 (2): 208–233. doi:10.1111/j.1468-2958.2004.tb00731.x.
- ^ a b c d Ladwig, Peter (2012). "Perceived familiarity or factual knowledge? Comparing operationalizations of scientific understanding". Science and Public Policy. 39 (6): 761–774. doi:10.1093/scipol/scs048.
- ^ "PAWS off science?". Physics Education. 33 (1). January 1998. doi:10.1088/0031-9120/33/1/011.
- ^ "The Vega Science Trust - Science Video - Homepage". vega.org.uk.
- ^ "Professor Richard Dawkins - The Simonyi Professorship". ox.ac.uk. Archived from the original on 2011-05-14.
- ^ "Professor Marcus du Sautoy - The Simonyi Professorship". ox.ac.uk. Archived from the original on 2010-05-31.