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Feb 12, 2024 Essay
Polio vaccine misinformation on social media: challenges, efforts, and recommendations

by Muhammad Ittefaq, Shafiq Ahmad Kamboh, Carina M. Zelaya and Rauf Arif

On April 22, 2019, false rumors regarding the side effects of the polio vaccine quickly spread across various social media platforms, including Facebook, X (formerly known as Twitter), WhatsApp, and YouTube. This rapid spread of misinformation had a detrimental impact on Pakistan's efforts to eradicate polio. This essay sheds lights on two critical aspects related to polio vaccine misinformation on social media in Pakistan. First, it examines the current state of polio vaccine misinformation on social media and finds it a significant threat to public health, resulting in vaccine refusals, erosion of trust in public health institutions, distrust in science, and providing opportunities for anti-vaccination groups and individual advocates to target healthcare workers involved in polio eradication efforts nationwide. Second, it highlights the collaborative initiatives undertaken by relevant government institutions and social media companies, which have proven inadequate in effectively addressing the persistent dissemination of mis/disinformation, particularly on Facebook. Lastly, we suggest Pakistan should adopt a more inclusive approach of engaging all stakeholders, promote independent fact-checking initiatives, and increase health literacy among the target population about the risks and benefits associated with the polio vaccine.

Volume 23 • Issue 01 • 2024

Dec 11, 2023 Essay
Strengthening interdisciplinarity in science communication education: promise, pleasures and problems

by Brian Trench

Science communication education is fundamentally concerned with relations between and within communities, cultures and institutions. Through exploration of these relations, it develops understanding of how knowledge is produced, shared and validated. Science communication operates at the boundaries and intersections of disciplines in its professional practice and it analyses them in research and education. At its interdisciplinary best, science communication is a continuing exercise in reflexivity on science and its place in wider intellectual and public culture. From this “premise”, this essay reflects on the “promise” of bringing perspectives from humanities, social sciences and natural sciences to bear on science, the “pleasures” of science communication as “joyously interdisciplinary”, but also on the “problems” in fulfilling the promise and realising the pleasures. It closes with a “proposition” for giving interdisciplinarity a more prominent place in science communication education.

Volume 22 • Issue 06 • 2023 • Special Issue: Science communication in higher education: global perspectives on the teaching of science communication

Dec 11, 2023 Essay
Science communication as interdisciplinary training

by Matthew Wood

Science communication education has come a long way thanks in part to broad recognition of the importance of communication skills and the capacity for science communication courses to address that need. Similarly, the current rise in demand for interdisciplinary competencies offers new opportunities for the advancement of science communication education, and for greater contribution to preparing graduates for a rapidly changing world.

Volume 22 • Issue 06 • 2023 • Special Issue: Science communication in higher education: global perspectives on the teaching of science communication

Oct 09, 2023 Essay
A critical perspective on the mediatization of brain imaging and healthy ageing

by Najmeh Khalili-Mahani and Eugene Loos

Since the invention of functional brain imaging in the early 1990s, this instrumentally and computationally expensive methodology has captured our interests in visualizing the working mind, especially that of super-ageing brains. Because neuroimaging research is costly, various communication strategies are deployed to increase its visibility and fundraising success. Through a historical perspective on the representation of healthy ageing in the media, we examine the methods of communication (media logic) and the cultural interdependencies between media, research institutions, and health funding politics (mediatization), which magnify the profile of brain imaging in advancing the science of healthy ageing. Examples of hyped messaging about healthy-ageing brains underline the risk of visual ageism — a prejudiced and stereotypical view of what a good or bad older brain looks like. We argue that hyped mediatization can alienate older adults from participating in a line of research that might stigmatize them.

Volume 22 • Issue 05 • 2023

Aug 21, 2023 Essay
Looking back to launch forward: a self-reflexive approach to decolonising science education and communication in Africa

by Temilade Sesan and Ayodele Ibiyemi

The imbalance in the global scientific landscape resulting from the enduring legacy of colonialism in the south and the hegemony of scientific paradigms originating in the north is immense. Our paper makes a case for employing traditional knowledge systems and paradigms as tools for redressing this imbalance in African societies. To achieve this goal, the paper argues, scholars and science communicators must actively pursue a radical, “power-literate” agenda of scientific decolonisation on the continent. Central to this mission is the need for scholars to be equipped with a keen sense of the past — including an understanding of what worked for knowledge production and perpetuation in pre-colonial African societies — without which science education and communication in those societies will remain untethered from the realities of the present and their visions for the future. Concurrently, attention must be given to nurturing home-grown paradigms and platforms for research in higher education that are rigorous yet unencumbered by the age-long tendency to refract African experiences through northern lenses.

Volume 22 • Issue 04 • 2023

Aug 21, 2023 Essay
Response to: “Looking back to launch forward: a self-reflexive approach to decolonising science education and communication in Africa”. Decoloniality opens up new epistemic vistas for science communication

by Sujatha Raman

Decolonial perspectives open up epistemic and practical insights for science communication. Following critiques of a deficit-model framing of the field, science communication has been redefined as an inclusive cultural space of meaning-making around science. From a decolonial lens, however, a cultural perspective necessitates a fundamental reckoning with the historical and contemporary politics of knowledge claims, including the erasure and devaluation of entire knowledge-systems in the process of Westernization. In recognizing and learning from these histories, science communication can learn from parallel developments within the sciences. It can also learn from contributions made by decolonial scholars to the global challenge of navigating sustainable futures. This piece briefly discusses one such example, drawing from scholarship on the ontological cosmovision of Ubuntu and its relevance to climate change dilemmas today.

Volume 22 • Issue 04 • 2023

Aug 21, 2023 Essay
Response to: “Looking back to launch forward: a self-reflexive approach to decolonising science education and communication in Africa”. Recognizing and validating multiple knowledge ecologies

by Fabien Medvecky, Jennifer Metcalfe and Michelle Riedlinger

This is a response to Sesan and Ibiyemi's essay [2023], which rightly urges “scholars and science communicators” to resist the colonial legacy of science in African countries. The essay argues that northern paradigms, focused on science as the only true form of knowledge, need to be replaced with functional Indigenous knowledge systems. However, the authors adopt the framework of the global north when reimagining and advocating for a radical ‘power literate’ agenda thus confounding knowledge with science, and education with science communication. These approaches obscure the fundamental importance of reimagining power dynamics in a world of multiple epistemologies. Instead, we propose that ‘knowledge communicators’ facilitate a multi-knowledge world through participatory processes.

Volume 22 • Issue 04 • 2023

Jun 20, 2023 Essay
Designing (the) politics of participation in science

by Adalberto Fernandes

Living Labs foster participatory prototyping and technology testing in “real-life” situations. The literature exhibits a weak approach to Living Labs’ power relations. It is crucial to understand the visual apparatus employed by Living Labs because they model power relations inherent to participation, especially when commercial interests are involved. Some Living Labs’ visual models display indifference towards power imbalances and unquestioned faith in progress, diminishing the space for divergent positions. Living Labs are just the newest manifestation of the fundamental challenges of making ethical participation and technological innovation compatible, given that increased participation may not translate necessarily into novelty.

Volume 22 • Issue 03 • 2023 • Special Issue: Living labs under construction: paradigms, practices, and perspectives of public science communication and participatory science

Jun 20, 2023 Essay
Imagineering the city: the living lab mystique and its discontents

by Dara Ivanova and Sabrina Huizenga

In this essay, we posit that the urban living lab is an object, engulfed in a particular kind of ontological mystique. We show how diverse urban initiatives utilize the label of `lab' strategically, in order to position their practices within the logic of scientific authority and in/exclude different audiences, thus configuring urban participation. The essay links this lab mystique to urban participation by employing the lens of imagineering [van den Berg, 2015], combining imagining and engineering the city in particular participatory configurations. This allows for critical examinations of who is allowed to imagine, experiment and participate in the city through living lab initiatives.

Volume 22 • Issue 03 • 2023 • Special Issue: Living labs under construction: paradigms, practices, and perspectives of public science communication and participatory science

May 02, 2023 Essay
The Notorious GPT: science communication in the age of artificial intelligence

by Mike S. Schäfer

ChatGPT provides original, human-like responses to user prompts based on supervised and reinforcement machine learning techniques. It has become the poster child of generative AI, which is widely diagnosed to disrupt many realms of life — including science communication. This essay reflects on this development. It discusses opportunities for the practice of science communication, such as generative AI’s translational and multimodal capacities and its capacity to provide dialogical science communication at scale, but also challenges in terms of accuracy, ‘wrongness at scale’ or job market implications. It also ponders implications for research on science communication, which has largely neglected (generative) AI so far. It argues that scholars should analyze public communication “about” AI as well as communication “with” AI, given its ‘increased agency’. Furthermore, scholars should analyze the impact of AI on science communication itself and the larger science communication ecosystem.

Volume 22 • Issue 02 • 2023