Food for Thought: Nottingham University Students' Understanding of Science and Food

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It is only recently that food has been recognised as a legitimate concern of the social science. With the increasing amount of sociological research devoted to the topics of food, the importance of public understanding of food, health and food safety has captured scholarly attention. Nevertheless, within Science and Technology Studies (STS) the study of food remains marginalised. This paper attempts to bring people’s understanding in science in food production to the public health table. In doing so, it draws upon work in the public understanding of science (PUS). Scepticism about science and a lack of understanding of science are often linked. This assumes a deficit in knowledge on the part of the public. The deficit model, however, has long been criticised for over-simplifying the issues involved. This paper examines Nottingham University students’ discourse and practice about food and their concerns in the recent technologies applied to food production through a case study of Genetically Modified (GM) food.


Keywords: Public Understanding of Science, Food, University Students
Stream: Technology and Applied Sciences
Presentation Type: Paper Presentation in English
Paper: A paper has not yet been submitted.


Yin-Ling Lin

PhD Student, ISS (Institute for Science and Society), University of Nottingham
Nottingham, UK

Having finished my Master in Food science, biotechnology division at University of Leeds, I was intrigued by the opposition towards Genetically Modified (GM) food in the UK. As a science student, a lot of the information available to me was relatively science-related. Not knowing the social aspects of the issue, I decided to go to University of Surrey to study a Master in Food management, where I did a questionnaire study on people’s attitudes towards GM food in the US and the UK. At the end of my study, I came to realise that questionnaire survey can only reflect part of the issue and I was not convinced that it was the best approach to investigate people’s views on GM food. Hence, I chose to come to University of Nottingham to do further qualitative studies on people’s view towards GM food. The interdisciplinary atmosphere in ISS (Institute for Science and Society) has encouraged me to look at the issue in a broader context, i.e. public understanding of science in the technology applied to food production. In order to avoid the prevalent assumption of considering the ‘general public’ as unity, only Nottingham university students are concerned in my study.

Ref: I08P0685