Public engagement with science and technology

01/09/2020

In this series of comments, we argue for Science Communication as an enabler of transdisciplinary, integrative collaboration in the context of today’s complex, multi-stakeholder issues. Participatory design, as a collaborative method, is effective in achieving mutual learning, shared understandings, integrating disciplines and creating solutions that make sense in the multi-layered reality of today’s challenges. Science Communication, therefore, is communication design in transdisciplinary collaborations.

20/07/2020

In this era of pandemics, economic crises and civil unrest, science centres and museums have an opportunity to become truly relevant resources to society. This paper summarises a number of critical lessons from the PISEA International Symposium, a conference held the at the Austrian Museum of Folk Life and Folk Art in Vienna from the 17th–18th of October 2019. The purpose of this event was to share, learn, and discuss ways in which engagement with migrants and refugee populations might be improved within informal science learning spaces. Issues around integration, inclusive art-science practice, and shifting institutional policy and language were all explored. This paper also calls for the committed reform of informal science spaces, and a renewed commitment to responsive, equitable, and inclusive practice.

16/06/2020

This special issue of JCOM features six commentary articles from the research stream of the Australian Science Communicators conference, held in February 2020. These opportunistic assessments and deliberate analyses explore important themes of trust, engagement, and communication strategy across a diverse range of scientific contexts. Together, they demonstrate the importance of opportunities to come together and share the research that underpins our practice. The conference and these commentaries enable us to engage in professional development during these exceptional times when successful evidence-based science communication is of critical significance.

27/04/2020

We present a novel approach to communicating abstract concepts in cosmology and astrophysics in a more accessible and inclusive manner. We describe an exhibit aiming at creating an immersive, multisensory metaphorical experience of an otherwise imperceptible physical phenomenon — dark matter. Human-Computer Interaction experts and physicists co-created a multisensory journey through dark matter by exploiting the latest advances in haptic and olfactory technology. We present the concept design of a pilot and a second, improved event, both held at the London Science Museum, including the practical setup of the multisensory dark matter experience, the delivery of sensory stimulation and preliminary insights from users' feedback.

20/04/2020

This essay explores the relationship of science communication and public relations and contends that science communication has something to learn from public relations research. I provide an alternate history of public relations, drawn from the history of social movements (activism). I outline two areas from public relations theory: first, notions of human agency and equity in communication and, second, public interest in public communication. In doing so, I highlight how research from critical public relations could contribute to science communication efforts to enable participation with science and technology from wider, more diverse publics.

14/04/2020

Blogs provide potential for publics to engage more deliberatively through dialogue in controversial science than one-way dissemination methods. This study investigated who was commenting on two antithetical climate change blogsites; how they were commenting; and the quality of their dialogue. Most research into science blogs has focused on bloggers rather than commenters. This study found that both blogsites were dominated by a small number of commenters who used contractive dialogue to promote their own views to like-minded commenters. Such blogsites are consolidating their own polarised publics rather than deliberately engaging them in climate change science.

09/03/2020

Many studies have examined the impression that the general public has of science and how this can prevent girls from choosing science fields. Using an online questionnaire, we investigated whether the public perception of several academic fields was gender-biased in Japan. First, we found the gender-bias gap in public perceptions was largest in nursing and mechanical engineering. Second, people who have a low level of egalitarian attitudes toward gender roles perceived that nursing was suitable for women. Third, people who have a low level of egalitarian attitudes perceived that many STEM fields are suitable for men. This suggests that gender-biased perceptions toward academic fields can still be found in Japan.

29/01/2020

Build SciComm, an international symposium on strategies for fostering science communication in Japan held at the University of Tsukuba in November 2019, brought together academics and practitioners to discuss issues faced by the field in Japan and vision for future direction. Informally, the symposium was well received and generally considered to be a useful and stimulating event. We discuss issues to be considered for future incarnations and explain why this symposium provides an important forum for inclusive discussions on fundamental questions about the nature of science communication in Japan.

27/01/2020

As the digital revolution continues and our lives become increasingly governed by smart technologies, there is a rising need for reflection and critical debate about where we are, where we are headed, and where we want to be. Against this background, the paper suggests that one way to foster such discussion is by engaging with the world of fiction, with imaginative stories that explore the spaces, places, and politics of alternative realities. Hence, after a concise discussion of the concept of speculative fiction, we introduce the notion of datafictions as an umbrella term for speculative stories that deal with the datafication of society in both imaginative and imaginable ways. We then outline and briefly discuss fifteen datafictions subdivided into five main categories: surveillance; social sorting; prediction; advertising and corporate power; hubris, breakdown, and the end of Big Data. In a concluding section, we argue for the increased use of speculative fiction in education, but also as a tool to examine how specific technologies are culturally imagined and what kind of futures are considered plausible given current implementations and trajectories.

14/10/2019

Student engagement is an important predictor of choosing science-related careers and establishing a scientifically literate society: and, worryingly, it is on the decline internationally. Conceptions of science are strongly affected by school experience, so one strategy is to bring successful science communication strategies to the classroom. Through a project creating short science films on mobile devices, students' engagement greatly increased through collaborative learning and the storytelling process. Teachers were also able to achieve cross-curricular goals between science, technology, and literacy. We argue that empowering adolescents as storytellers, rather than storylisteners, is an effective method to increase engagement with science.

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