The field of science communication is plagued by challenges. Communicators face the difficulty of responding to unjustified public skepticism over issues like climate change and COVID-19 while also acknowledging the fallibility and limitations of scientific knowledge. Our goal in this paper is to suggest a new model for science communication that can help foster more productive, respectful relationships among all those involved in science communication. Inspired by the pragmatist philosophy of John Dewey, we develop an experience model, according to which science communication consists in people’s experiences with science and the meanings they develop from those experiences. Three principles are central to the model: experience is cumulative, context matters, and audiences have agency. We argue that this model has significant implications both for communication research and practice, which we illustrate by applying it to the phenomenon of vaccine hesitancy. We show how science communicators can help to identify and alleviate structural factors that contribute to skepticism as well as fostering opportunities for meaning making around shared experiences.

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