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Filter by author: Merryn McKinnon

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May 10, 2021 Article
Reorienting science communication towards communities

by Lindy A. Orthia, Merryn McKinnon, John Noel Viana and Graham Walker

Communities are rarely seen as the ideal level at which to focus science communication efforts, compared to the individual, psychological or mass, societal levels. Yet evidence from allied fields suggests building interpersonal relationships with specific communities over time is key to meaningful engagement, so orienting science communication towards communities is warranted. In this paper, we argue this case. We review previous studies, identifying three existing models of community-oriented science communication, which we label ‘neighbourly’, ‘problem-solving’ and ‘brokering’. We illustrate the effectiveness of the ‘problem-solving’ approach and the desirable ideal of ‘brokering’ using recent examples of community-oriented science communication from Australia.

Volume 20 • Issue 03 • 2021 • Special Issue: Re-examining Science Communication: models, perspectives, institutions, 2021

Feb 01, 2021 Commentary
The elephant in the room: tackling taboos in women's healthcare

by Aarti Kapoor and Merryn McKinnon

The medical arena often encounters ‘taboo’ topics. These appear especially prevalent in women's health conditions, such as menstruation and menopause. Taboos are exacerbated by medical uncertainty, complex jargon, and patients' misunderstanding of the human anatomy — impacting patients' ability to actively participate in a shared decision-making process with their doctor. In this commentary, we look at one example of a medical procedure where taboo topics pose a number of challenges in doctor-patient communication — hysterectomy. We explore whether science communication can address these challenges, as well as contribute and collaborate in other medical scenarios, thereby benefiting both disciplines, and ultimately, patients.

Volume 20 • Issue 01 • 2021

Feb 24, 2020 Article
One size does not fit all: gender implications for the design of outcomes, evaluation and assessment of science communication programs

by Christine O'Connell, Merryn McKinnon and Jordan LaBouff

As science communication programs grow worldwide, effective evaluation and assessment metrics lag. While there is no consensus on evaluation protocols specifically for science communication training, there is agreement on elements of effective training: listening, empathy, and knowing your audience — core tenets of improvisation. We designed an evaluation protocol, tested over three years, based on validated and newly developed scales for an improvisation-based communication training at the Alan Alda Center for Communicating Science. Initial results suggest that ‘knowing your audience’ should apply to training providers as they design and evaluate their curriculum, and gender may be a key influence on outcomes.

Volume 19 • Issue 01 • 2020

Feb 03, 2020 Article
Challenges of communicating science: perspectives from the Philippines

by Kamila Navarro and Merryn McKinnon

Science communication research is dominated by Western countries. While their research provides insight into best practices, their findings cannot be generalized to developing countries. This study examined the science communication challenges encountered by scientists and science communicators from Manila, Philippines through an online survey and semi-structured, investigative interviews. Their answers revealed issues which have been echoed in other international studies. However, challenges of accessibility and local attitudes to science were magnified within the Philippine context. These results indicate the ubiquity of certain challenges in science communication and the need for country-specific science communication frameworks. Further research on the identified challenges is needed on a local and global scale.

Volume 19 • Issue 01 • 2020

Jul 20, 2017 Article
Vaccination communication strategies: What have we learned, and lost, in 200 years?

by Merryn McKinnon and Lindy A. Orthia

This study compares Australian government vaccination campaigns from two very different time periods, the early nineteenth century (1803–24) and the early twenty-first (2016). It explores the modes of rhetoric and frames that government officials used in each period to encourage parents to vaccinate their children. The analysis shows that modern campaigns rely primarily on scientific fact, whereas 200 years ago personal stories and emotional appeals were more common. We argue that a return to the old ways may be needed to address vaccine hesitancy around the world.

Volume 16 • Issue 03 • 2017 • Special Issue: History of Science Communication, 2017

Nov 29, 2016 Article
Science, Twitter and election campaigns: tracking #auspol in the Australian federal elections

by Merryn McKinnon, David Semmens, Brenda Moon, Inoka Amarasekara and Léa Bolliet

Social media is increasingly being used by science communicators, journalists and government agencies to engage in discourse with a range of publics. Despite a growing body of literature on Twitter use, the communication of science via Twitter is comparatively under explored. This paper examines the prominence of scientific issues in political debate occurring on Twitter during the 2013 and 2016 Australian federal election campaigns. Hashtracking of the umbrella political hashtag auspol was used to capture tweets during the two campaign periods. The 2013 campaign was particularly relevant as a major issue for both parties was climate change mitigation, a controversial and partisan issue. Therefore, climate change discussion on Twitter during the 2013 election was used as a focal case study in this research. Subsamples of the 2013 data were used to identify public sentiment and major contributors to the online conversation, specifically seeking to see if scientific, governmental, media or ‘public' sources were the more dominant instigators. We compare the prominence of issues on Twitter to mainstream media polls over the two campaign periods and argue that the potential of Twitter as an effective public engagement tool for science, and for politicised scientific issues in particular, is not being realised.

Volume 15 • Issue 06 • 2016