This paper was commissioned by the International Science Council (ISC) as a contribution to its programme on the Public Value of Science, within which the public understanding of science is a critical theme.
This paper aims to stimulate discussion for science academies and unions by exploring the structure and characteristics of engagement with science in the global public sphere, with public perceptions as the unit of analysis. The paper aims to reflect a global perspective, including both developed and developing countries. We outline key ideas and recent trends emerging from studies of science communication, including the links between communication and public perceptions. We briefly examine perceptions of science in relation to the COVID-19 pandemic and climate change. We conclude with the identification of potential areas for further research, and implications for research institutions.