A New Frontier in Science Communication? What We Know About How Public Audiences Respond to Cinematic Scientific Visualization

Eric A. Jensen, Kalina Maria Borkiewicz, Jill P. Naiman

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review


Presenting data in visually appealing formats has long been a useful science communication technique. Millions of people around the world have encountered scientific visualizations through documentary films on giant and small screens. Visual effects software from the film industry can increasingly be used to visualize scientific data. Such cinematic scientific visualization should be (a) based on real data, (b) understandable, and (c) entertaining for a public audience. To investigate what is known about how audiences respond to this type of science communication, this essay presents an overview of the literature on this topic, highlighting key findings, gaps, and directions for future research. The sprawling nature of the theoretical and empirical research literature on audience responses to cinematic scientific visualization makes it difficult to achieve comprehensive coverage of relevant studies and theoretical models. Recurring methodological limitations present further challenges to establishing a foundation of reliable knowledge on this topic. Nevertheless, prior research has identified several factors that affect how public audiences respond to cinematic scientific visualizations. Here, we discuss findings relating to intelligibility, film content, and immersion. These results offer a basis for hypotheses to be tested by future confirmatory studies of audience responses to cinematic scientific visualizations.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article number840631
JournalFrontiers in Communication
StatePublished - Apr 15 2022


  • data visualization
  • informal learning
  • planetarium
  • public engagement with research
  • public engagement with science and technology
  • science communication
  • science education
  • scientific visualization

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Communication
  • Social Sciences (miscellaneous)


Dive into the research topics of 'A New Frontier in Science Communication? What We Know About How Public Audiences Respond to Cinematic Scientific Visualization'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this