“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
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?
We now have 4G (or it is 5G?) phones. Maybe it’s time we moved on to 3G science communication. The marketing exercise that often passes for science communication is clearly recognisable as a first generation model. Still running on the “deficit” operating system this 1G model was programmed to look for “effectiveness” and “right” answers. Some scientists had problems with reception but you could always turn up the volume. Second generation science communication came with extra capacity for a “dialogue” between science and the public. The PEST operating system for 2G scicomm tried to introduce the “engagement” app, but many … Continue reading 3G Science Communication
How do you like your science? Rare, medium, well-done? And your public engagement? Would you like that with a little more public or a little less? Press release for starters and impact survey to finish off with? We all have our preferences when it comes to food and the same is true for our individual preferences when we come to science communication. Indeed, one preference would be whether you use the term “science communication” or something else to characterise the interface between science and public. (Note: my use of the term here is simply because “Scicomm” is a recognised hashtag … Continue reading How do you like your science? Rare, medium or well-done?
It’s a load of balls really. The impact of this; the effect of that. Nothing but billiard balls slamming into each other. Bang – the impact of science on society. Bang – the effect of ideology on science. Society bouncing round the angles after the science cue ball slams into it. Science rolling on its true course until ideology (the red) knocks it to one side. And science communication? Aim your science so that you can hit the public into the top pocket. It is all a very mechanistic and atomistic way of thinking about people and what they do. … Continue reading Science, Public and The Beast Below
Focussing on scientific heroes in history is like climate sceptics cherry-picking temperatures. Each piece of information may be accurate but the bigger picture gets distorted. To understand the consequences of that imagine a documentary on global warming made and presented by climate sceptics. Each little piece of information may be factually correct, but the way the programme gets framed would probably have most climate scientists wanting to add their own voice-over saying “yes, but…” Now imagine a documentary on 17th century science made and presented by a scientist. Each little piece of information may be factually correct, but the response … Continue reading History as PR and the need to see science in context
There should be a version of Godwin’s law that applies to science communication. It would be something like this: “As any discussion of science communication grows longer, the probability of an explanation involving Snow’s Two Cultures approaches 1.” As with Godwin’s original law which highlighted the danger of overusing Nazi analogies in discussion, so too the inevitable referencing of the Two Cultures can be a substitute for a poor argument undermining it’s credibility. The law can be extended beyond science communication to any discussion of science’s relationship with anything that is regarded as not-science eg science and the arts, science … Continue reading Wrong Kind of Snow: time to forget the Two Cultures