All author's publications are listed below.
In this commentary, I reflect on twenty years of teaching science communication at universities in Australia, Singapore and New Zealand. I discuss many of the challenges and opportunities for people working in the field. Some of the professional teaching experiences, challenges, and lessons I have learned may resonate with colleagues or help newcomers navigate the complexities of academic landscapes.
Despite Australian horse owners being encouraged to vaccinate their horses against Hendra virus to reduce the risk of this potentially fatal virus to horses and humans, vaccine uptake has been slow. Discourse around the vaccine has been characterised by polarisation and dissenting voices. In this study we interviewed horse owners (N=15) and veterinarians (N=10), revealing how expert knowledge, disqualification of lay knowledge and inadequate handling of uncertainty impacted divisive discourse around Hendra virus. We assert that more inclusive, reflective and ultimately more effective risk communication practices will result if the legitimacy of diverse knowledge sources and the inevitability of uncertainty are acknowledged.
This case study of the development of a cross-cultural museum exhibition illustrates value and difficulties of cross-cultural collaboration. University researchers worked with a class of postgraduate science communication students and designers from the Otago Museum to produce a museum exhibition. ‘Wai ora, Mauri ora’ (‘Healthy environments, Healthy people’) provided visibility and public access to information about Māori work. The exhibition assignment provided an authentic assessment of student work, with a professional output. Working on the exhibition involved cross-cultural communication between Māori and pakehā (non-Māori) and between students and museum professionals. This provided a rich learning experience that took many of the players outside of their comfort zone.
Factors that influence reception and use of information are represented in this koru model of science communication using the metaphor of a growing plant. Identity is central to this model, determining whether an individual attends to information, how it is used and whether access to it results in increased awareness, knowledge or understanding, changed attitudes or behaviour. In this koru model, facts are represented as nutrients in the soil; the matrix influences their availability. Communication involves reorganisation of facts into information, available via channels represented as roots. When information is taken up, engagement with it is influenced by external factors (social norms, support and control) and internal factors (values, beliefs, attitudes, awareness, affect, understanding, skills and behaviour) which affect whether the individual uses it to form new knowledge.
Attendance at any large conference is highly personal and every registrant has a unique experience. The value to the individual depends on which sessions they attend, whom they connect with and what outcomes eventuate from what they learn and the networking they do. The networking and feedback can be life changing as it was for me when I attended PCST in 1996 in Melbourne. PCST2014 was a successful conference that provided many options for delegates. This was my fifth PCST and I was glad to have made the long trip to Brazil. One of the most successful aspects of PCST2014 was the opportunity to hear voices that I had not heard at previous PCSTs. The opportunity to hear about interesting work and different perspectives is one of the main advantages of this large, diverse, international network. Some reflective presentations eloquently articulated the familiar but evolving framework of the science communication discipline. Some provocative presentations pushed me to consider new and different perspectives or methodologies. Some case study presentations illustrated that good science communication is happening around the world. All types are particularly useful to those of us at a crossroad in our career, considering where to invest our energy, expertise and time.