There has been considerable growth in public understanding of science activities in the UK since the Bodmer Report in 1985. The report addressed its final words to the scientific community "Learn to communicate, be willing to do and consider it your duty to do so".
 
This paper discusses the attitudes and opinion of research scientists and engineers to taking part in public understanding of science activities. Results from two surveys are presented.
 
One survey was carried out at an event in set 95 (the UK's National Week of Science Engineering and Technology) which involved 168 scientists from the University of Bristol taking their research work into a shopping mall in Bristol for 2 days.
 
The results show that whilst most of the scientists took part because they were told to by senior colleagues, after the event almost all (94%) wanted to take part again mainly because they had found the experience most enjoyable. Not only did the event benefit participants in improving presentation skills an enhanced morale, it also proved to be a good team-building exercise both within individual departments and within the University as a whole.
 
There were some unexpected benefits from taking part - research groups gained new ideas for projects, volunteers to take part in current research were found on several stands, some important contacts were made and several departments gained useful posters, videos and other equipment for more routing public an academic exhibitions.
 
A second survey was conducted with a group of scientists from the Medical research Council Radiobiology Unit asking them about their experience in communication to the public. Three quarters of the 87 staff who responded had been involved in some such activity and despite the high number that had done so initially under some sort of obligation, most enjoyed it and would happily do it again. Of those that had no experience in communicating science to the public the most common reason for non-participation was not lack of time, money or recognition but that no opportunity had arisen. What would encourage them to become involved? Simply being asked.
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PCST Network

Public Communication of Science and Technology

 

Public duty or pleasure

Gillian Pearson  

There has been considerable growth in public understanding of science activities in the UK since the Bodmer Report in 1985. The report addressed its final words to the scientific community "Learn to communicate, be willing to do and consider it your duty to do so".
 
This paper discusses the attitudes and opinion of research scientists and engineers to taking part in public understanding of science activities. Results from two surveys are presented.
 
One survey was carried out at an event in set 95 (the UK's National Week of Science Engineering and Technology) which involved 168 scientists from the University of Bristol taking their research work into a shopping mall in Bristol for 2 days.
 
The results show that whilst most of the scientists took part because they were told to by senior colleagues, after the event almost all (94%) wanted to take part again mainly because they had found the experience most enjoyable. Not only did the event benefit participants in improving presentation skills an enhanced morale, it also proved to be a good team-building exercise both within individual departments and within the University as a whole.
 
There were some unexpected benefits from taking part - research groups gained new ideas for projects, volunteers to take part in current research were found on several stands, some important contacts were made and several departments gained useful posters, videos and other equipment for more routing public an academic exhibitions.
 
A second survey was conducted with a group of scientists from the Medical research Council Radiobiology Unit asking them about their experience in communication to the public. Three quarters of the 87 staff who responded had been involved in some such activity and despite the high number that had done so initially under some sort of obligation, most enjoyed it and would happily do it again. Of those that had no experience in communicating science to the public the most common reason for non-participation was not lack of time, money or recognition but that no opportunity had arisen. What would encourage them to become involved? Simply being asked.

A copy of the full paper has not yet been submitted.

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