Publications included in this section.
We have published this issue of JCOM while the call for papers is open for the twelfth Public Communication of Science and Technology conference. The biennial meeting will be held in April 2012 and for the first time in Italy: the hosting city in Florence. The 2012 edition of the PCST conference is being held after more than twenty years of growth of the network of scholars that founded it and the expansion of its boundaries outside the European context from which it was created. JCOM is a part of this network, made up not only of individuals but also of organisations, university departments, journals, national conferences and so on.
A workshop on science journalism organised at SISSA of Trieste, Italy a few weeks ago outlined scenarios that should serve as a source for debate among professionals and scholars to grasp how information activities regarding science, medicine and technology will evolve in the next few years. It is a time of great uncertainty, yet a common path to venture through can be made out: the new science journalism should meditate on a different concept of science, an in-depth conceptualisation of different audiences, alternative narrations and its role in the democratisation of knowledge within a knowledge-based society.
Science must be open and accessible, and diffusion of knowledge should not be limited by patents and copyrights. After the Open Science Summit held in Berkeley, some notes about sharing scientific data and updating the social contract for science. Against the determinist view on technological and legal solutions, we need an explicit reflection on the relation between science and society. Both academic and industrial science seem unable to fulfill open science needs: new societal configurations are emerging and we should keep asking questions about appropriation, power, privatisation and freedom.
Luckily enough, more democracy is always called for. Even in countries that can truly be described as democratic. And democracy (which is a constant reference in these pages) is increasingly related to knowledge, be it about whether growing GMOs, starting nuclear energy production or allowing the choice of a child’s gender through IVF techniques. The need to make democratic decisions on controversial issues, which increasingly imply scientific and technological knowledge, comes from the bottom, as citizens voice – sometimes even vehemently – the desire to express themselves.
This introduction presents the essays belonging to the JCOM special issue on User-led and peer-to-peer science. It also draws a first map of the main problems we need to investigate when we face this new and emerging phenomenon. Web tools are enacting and facilitating new ways for lay people to interact with scientists or to cooperate with each other, but cultural and political changes are also at play. What happens to expertise, knowledge production and relations between scientific institutions and society when lay people or non-scientists go online and engage in scientific activities? From science blogging and social networks to garage biology and open tools for user-led research, P2P science challenges many assumptions about public participation in scientific knowledge production. And it calls for a radical and perhaps new kind of openness of scientific practices towards society.
In a brief text written in 1990, Gilles Deleuze took his friend Michel Foucault’s work as a starting point and spoke of new forces at work in society. The great systems masterfully described by Foucault as being related to “discipline” (family, factory, psychiatric hospital, prison, school), were all going through a crisis. On the other hand, the reforms advocated by ministers throughout the world (labour, welfare, education and health reforms) were nothing but ways to protract their anguish. Deleuze named “control society” the emerging configuration.
Jcom’s adventure was launched nearly eight years ago, when a group of lecturers and former students of the Master’s degree in Science Communication at SISSA of Trieste, decided to have training joined by the commitment to research on science communication issues.
The recent events related to the spread of the influenza virus A (H1N1) have drawn again the attention of science communication experts to old issues, including a couple of issues we deem particularly important: risk communication and the role of scientific journalists in the society of knowledge.
A recent article published in Science Communication addresses the training issue in issue in our discipline. Henk Mulder and his colleagues discuss the shared features that university curricula should or could have to favour the full admission of science communication into the academic circle. Having analysed analogies and differences in the curricula that a number of schools provide all over the world, the authors reached the conclusion that much remains to be done. Science communication seems far from having found shared fundamental references, lessons that cannot be missed in the practical-theoretical education of future professionals or researchers in this discipline. What should one study to become a good science communicator? And to make innovative research?