All author's publications are listed below.
Satire has long been used as a tool in social commentary and political communication, and in some cases this has extended to commentary about science and its role in policy. This is certainly the case for the recent Adam McKay film, ‘Don't look up’, where an allegorical story about a comet heading for Earth is used to satirise the current political and media response to the climate catastrophe. While the film succeeds in making its point, how the humour interacts with objectives of science communication highlights some risks of using satire where there's overlap between the subject of the satire and a potential audience for communication.
In December 2021, Netflix released a comedy feature film, ‘Don't Look Up’. The film follows two scientists who discover an extinction-level comet heading for Earth, which they then attempt to warn humanity about. The makers of the film have publicly stated that the film is meant as a satirical metaphor for the response to the climate emergency. The film presents representations of science, scientists, and science communication. In this set of commentaries, experts have been selected to explore these representations and the lessons the film presents for using satire in science communication.
Traditionally, the Royal Institution's Christmas Lectures have always adopted a deficit model for communication, with one or two invited scientists giving lectures to an audience present at the Royal Institution (Ri) and, since 1936, an audience watching the lectures on television at home. As trends in public engagement have tended towards more dialogue or participatory models, the Ri has made efforts to create a programme of events around the lectures: extending the experience outside of the lecture theatre and giving audiences more opportunities to experience live events and participate in discourse. In this paper, we explore data collected as part of an 18 month evaluation of the Christmas Lectures and their associated events. We focus on data collected at events designed to create live and interactive experiences beyond the lectures and evaluate these participatory approaches. The paper shares this learning to enhance the extension of traditional science communication towards science participation.
‘Escape rooms’ are a recent cultural phenomena, whereby a group of ‘players’, often friends or colleagues, are ‘locked’ in a room and must solve a series of clues, puzzles, or mysteries in order to ‘escape’. Escape rooms are increasingly appearing in a range of settings, including science centres and museums, libraries and university programmes, but what role can an escape room play in science communication? In this commentary, we explore the emerging literature on escape rooms as well as thoughts from a small number of escape room creators in the U.S. and U.K.
In early August 2019, the U.S.A. saw 2 significant mass shootings in just 48 hours. On Twitter, Neil deGrasse Tyson responded with a tweet to his millions of followers. He outlined the number of deaths in 48 hours from other causes, and seemed to disparage the human tendency to respond emotionally “more to spectacle than to data”. The tweet resulted in an uproar. This “twitterstorm” might provide important lessons for practicing science communicators. The first lesson outlined in this letter is about the use of analogy in science communication, and the second is about how emotion is addressed in science communication.