How can Science Communication enhance the undergraduate curriculum? Giskin DayScience Communication GroupDepartment of Humanities
What constitutes good science communication? You just have to dumb everything down when talking to the public. Is this going to be in the exam? How much does it count? Avoid the media. They are rubbish at covering science. Abstract, intro, method, discussion, conclusion If only I could tell the public more about science, they would be more supportive.
Characteristics of the cognitive-deficit model • Downward transmission from scientist to citizen • Science is seen as coherent, objective, and has clear boundaries from other disciplines • Science is unencumbered by social, political and institutional connections • Uptake of science is determined by intellectual ability • ‘Ignorance’ on the part of the public has to be remedied • ‘Scientific thinking’ is the proper yardstick with which to measure ‘everyday thinking’
Characteristics of the dialogic model • ‘Cross talk’ between scientists and citizens • Science is seen as contingent, with permeable boundaries: uncertainty is an opportunity rather than a threat. • Science is inextricable from social, political and institutional connections • Uptake of science is determined by trust in sources and openness in negotiations • ‘Ignorance’ can be functional • ‘Everyday thinking’ is much less well understood than ‘scientific thinking’
What does Climategate tell us? • Communication is not an ‘app’: it’s part of the hardware of science • Science is fraught with politics • Science has a history of overselling its ability to deliver answers with certainty • Science is not ‘value-free’. • To acknowledge contextual factors is not to be ‘anti-science’.
Unless we acknowledge the ‘messy’ nature of science, we risk disillusioning our undergraduates. But… the possibilities for creativity, intellectualism and ‘real-world’ meaningfulness are inspiring.
Trends • Communalism: now realistic • Transparency • Open access • Scrutiny • Proliferation of social media
What you can do • Discuss context as well as content • Challenge preconceptions • Recognise science as primarily a persuasive activity • Resist reductionism • Acknowledge subjectivity • Encourage creativity
What constitutes good science communication? Being honest about uncertainty. The public can handle it. Recognising that media bashing is unproductive. Is this going to be in the exam? How much does it count? Not being patronising. People are very good at finding out what they need to know, when they need to know it. Peer review is a means of establishing collective responsibility rather than a guarantee of accuracy. Realising that data do not speak for themselves. Interpretation needs to be motivated.