The Tao of Cultural Studies

            Have a coffee or a glass of wine. Settle down. Relax. I’d like to write something that cannot be written so you can think something that cannot be thought. THE TAO OF CULTURAL STUDIES with apologies to Capra             A long time ago I recognised that the language and techniques used in cultural studies were reminiscent of what I had come across in Eastern philosophy. What I am particularly interested in is making a Taoist approach more explicit, and employing a Taoist epistemology (and even a Taoist ethnography) to explore the relationship between science, nature, culture and ourselves. Interestingly, … Continue reading The Tao of Cultural Studies

Between the words

Words can say so much, but so too can the spaces between words. A word is a presence – a mark on paper, a sound in the air, an object in space. But the word, as presence, obscures the view. We need to look past the presence to see the absence which helps to give it form. The absence is also present. Looking beyond the words into the spaces in-between, we see in the background the context in which the words are uttered – the context without which they would have no meaning; the context which suggests that meaning at … Continue reading Between the words

Being a scicomm baggy monster

It is difficult to pinpoint when I became a scicomm baggy monster. I have now been doing teaching and research in the area of science communication for nearly forty years and it has probably been there from the start. In the first few weeks of my research back in 1983, I had a very naïve idea of science in the media (my research topic) and tried to trace the dissemination of science stories from scientist through journal into the popular press. However, it didn’t take me long to flip everything on to its head, looking for science in what was … Continue reading Being a scicomm baggy monster


Much of what we all do can be seen as a form of alchemy. We start with something; we process it; and, if all goes well, we turn it into something we value more highly. Certainly, that is how I have begun to see my own work – whether this is in research, teaching, writing, handling complex problems or simply editing someone else’s text. It was with this in mind that I created Alchemarium. In part this is a personal website, but I also want it to be a platform for other people, a place where (as a team) we … Continue reading Alchemarium

The Qualia of Science Communication

Run your fingers gently along a surface, maybe your sleeve or the table in front of you. What does it feel like? And what does that experience feeling feel like? How do you understand it? This is the essence of “qualia” ie those immediate, subjective experiential qualities of consciousness. It is the “raw” feel, not the cooked. A camera may “see” an image but what is the experience of seeing an image like? What is the difference between your experience of an image and that of the camera? Those experiential qualities might be called “qualia” The term comes from the Latin “qualis” … Continue reading The Qualia of Science Communication

RRI: Figures in a landscape

In recent years the idea of Responsible Research and Innovation (RRI) has become an increasingly familiar part of the research and innovation landscape. In some cases the idea has even been translated into practice – although the extent to which such RRI practice has been successful is, to my mind, something that has yet to be determined. Elsewhere I have sketched the RRI landscape, now I want to put some figures in that picture to give some idea of what it is like to implement RRI in different institutions. To do this I want to draw on the “Alchemical Workshop” … Continue reading RRI: Figures in a landscape

CUSP: the Critical Understanding of Science in Public

Over the past twenty years there have been increasing calls for dialogue and engagement between science and the public. A “broader approach” and a new perspective was needed. In my book I suggest that a Critical Understanding of Science in Public (or CUSP) was a way to encapsulate that approach. What follows is mostly an extract from the book. The main features of this  new perspective are: it is multidirectional: no longer is science seen simply as diffusing downwards but in communication circuits and webs all points feed into and off eachother. it is contextual: concerned not just with the … Continue reading CUSP: the Critical Understanding of Science in Public

Sci-comm Comfort Noise

Hello? Are you there? We all know that science communication is more than the efficient transfer of information. My own work and this blog, for example, emphasise the need to understand how meanings are constructed in different contexts. But for now, let’s keep it simple and put aside all that contextual, critical, cultural studies gunf. The common sense model of communication is, after all, common sense and it is one which is readily acceptable to many scientists – not least because it serves their own interests. So, keep it simple. Communication is the transfer of information from A to B. … Continue reading Sci-comm Comfort Noise

The Alchemical Conference

And then the thought struck me, we could use alchemy to improve conferences….. Conferences come in all shapes and sizes. Some are so large they are more like conventions or trade fairs, others not much more than a group of friends scheduling their coffee breaks in a different city. What they nearly all have in common are the same tired old formats (panels, plenaries, poster sessions etc). “Workshops” are often not much different except with added post-it notes. I was recently in a meeting helping to organise a conference and wanted to move beyond the same old same old. Also … Continue reading The Alchemical Conference

What is this thing called science communication?

What is this thing called “science communication”? Is it a subject upon which we focus our attention and activities? Or is it a field in which those activities take place? Field or focus? This is not just navel-gazing. How we see ourselves will shape not only what we do but also how we do it and why. In November I was privileged to be part of a specially invited group of 22 practitioners and researchers from 15 different countries meeting in the lakeside resort of Bellagio in Italy to set new directions for science communication. As part of its wide-ranging … Continue reading What is this thing called science communication?