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?

3G Science Communication

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

Wrong Kind of Snow: time to forget the Two Cultures

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