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?

Science Communication: a cultural turn

The world of science communication may be at a turning point. Over the past thirty years other disciplines have taken a “cultural turn”. My hope is that science communication does the same. In the 1980s I came to science communication through a cultural analysis of Victorian and Edwardian mass media. This cultural approach has stayed with me ever since and, I believe, continues to be a missing key element in current approaches to science communication. Understanding culture is more than surveys of behaviours and attitudes. Our concerns should be with the ways that meanings are created and circulated within a … Continue reading Science Communication: a cultural turn

Deficits in Disguise: the science of science communication

I have felt uneasy about the whole science of science communication thing for a while now. Some night thoughts recently helped me formulate why: The science of science communication is just the deficit model in disguise. We all know that the deficit model is just so 1980s and we have all moved on from that now, haven’t we? Now our professed concerns are with engagement, dialogue, co-creation, so why is there such importance attached to the science of science communication? How much co-creation can there be if the ground-rules for dialogue state that one side is right? If we are … Continue reading Deficits in Disguise: the science of science communication

Science and Democracy

There is an easy assumption that science and democracy are natural companions, even that they are necessary for each other. A historical perspective, as usual, says it is not as simple as that. With so much concern about the relationship between science and politics I keep meaning to explore this subject further and wish I had something to hand to point at with each fresh discussion. For now all I can point to is a very short commentary on “Science Communication: process power and politics” which is due to appear in the next issue of the Journal of Science Communication, … Continue reading Science and Democracy

Phatic Sci-Comm

“Hello, how are you?” “Not too bad. And yourself?” “Oh, mustn’t grumble” This, and countless variations like it, is a common exchange between two people. The enquiries about health and welfare are not really requests to get access to medical information, nor are the responses attempts to give proper answers. Very occasionally this opening exchange might be taken as an opportunity to talk about an especially dramatic or important event (recent wedding, holiday, death etc) but most times it simply renews the bond between the speakers. Much (maybe even most) everyday conversation is built upon these kinds of “phatic” statements … Continue reading Phatic Sci-Comm

Sci-Comm: What is to be done?

Science communication has failed Rearranging the furniture in the White House are a President who said climate change was a hoax, and a Vice-President who does not accept the theory of evolution. The rest of Trump’s cabinet is an equally deplorable bunch when it comes to science (or, indeed, anything else when it comes to being decent and humane). I’m not blaming science communication for the election of Trump. But Trump’s Presidency is evidence that science communication has failed. You might say that this has little to do with science communication, that Trump won the election on other issues but … Continue reading Sci-Comm: What is to be done?