This paper reviews key issues of public understanding of science (PUS) research over the last quarter of a century. We show how the discussion has moved in relation to large-scale surveys of public perceptions by tracing developments through three paradigms: science literacy, public understanding of science and science and society. Naming matters here like elsewhere as a marker of "tribal identity." Each paradigm frames the problem differently, poses characteristic questions, offers preferred solutions, and displays a rhetoric of "progress" over the previous one. We argue that the polemic over the "deficit concept" voiced a valid critique of a common sense concept among experts, but confused the issue with methodological protocol. PUS research has been hampered by this "essentialist" association between the survey research protocol and the public deficit model. We argue that this fallacious link should be severed to liberate and to expand the research agenda in four directions: contextualizing survey research, searching for cultural indicators, integrating datasets and doing longitudinal analysis, and including other data streams. Under different presumptions, assumed and granted, we anticipate a fertile period for survey research on public understanding of science
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