This paper draws on the authors’ current involvement in constructing a science communication strategy for Bangor University, UK. Bangor has a very active natural sciences research base with particular strengths in ocean and biological sciences. The paper reflects on the process of communicating science communication; a process necessitating reflexive practice, and a paring back to first principles, listening to scientists and university senior managements’ own baseline understanding about what science communication ‘is’ and should be for. The author presents her reflections on an interesting journey for all concerned where some basic principles of science communication, informed by current STS thinking on public engagement with science, needed to be communicated and in the process examined for how well these principles ‘travelled’ and were engaged with by the scientists. These included explaining what post “deficit model” (Wynne 1996) science communication ‘is’; introducing concepts of lay expertise and knowledge exchange particularly in relation to deliberating the Ethical, Social and Legal Aspects (ELSA) of science and technology; highlighting examples of best practice; and unpacking the concept of “publics”- facilitating scientists and managers to think reflexively about which specific public groups they wished to engage with and why.

Reflexively communicating science communication identified that primary motivations for engaging in science communication for the scientists and senior management are to recruit students, to get young people interested in science, and to communicate their own research to these target groups and to a wider audience. This raises the question of whether straightforward (though definitely post deficit model) public understanding of science (PUS) has fallen too far out of fashion in current STS debates. Conducting what might be termed ‘basic’ PUS is a valuable goal in and of itself, as well as being a necessary first step in enabling scientists and others to appreciate the value of undertaking post deficit model science communication knowledge exchange between publics and scientists.

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Public Communication of Science and Technology

 

Communicating science communication
Reflections on creating a science communication strategy from scratch

Alexandra Plows   Bangor University Wales

This paper draws on the authors’ current involvement in constructing a science communication strategy for Bangor University, UK. Bangor has a very active natural sciences research base with particular strengths in ocean and biological sciences. The paper reflects on the process of communicating science communication; a process necessitating reflexive practice, and a paring back to first principles, listening to scientists and university senior managements’ own baseline understanding about what science communication ‘is’ and should be for. The author presents her reflections on an interesting journey for all concerned where some basic principles of science communication, informed by current STS thinking on public engagement with science, needed to be communicated and in the process examined for how well these principles ‘travelled’ and were engaged with by the scientists. These included explaining what post “deficit model” (Wynne 1996) science communication ‘is’; introducing concepts of lay expertise and knowledge exchange particularly in relation to deliberating the Ethical, Social and Legal Aspects (ELSA) of science and technology; highlighting examples of best practice; and unpacking the concept of “publics”- facilitating scientists and managers to think reflexively about which specific public groups they wished to engage with and why.

Reflexively communicating science communication identified that primary motivations for engaging in science communication for the scientists and senior management are to recruit students, to get young people interested in science, and to communicate their own research to these target groups and to a wider audience. This raises the question of whether straightforward (though definitely post deficit model) public understanding of science (PUS) has fallen too far out of fashion in current STS debates. Conducting what might be termed ‘basic’ PUS is a valuable goal in and of itself, as well as being a necessary first step in enabling scientists and others to appreciate the value of undertaking post deficit model science communication knowledge exchange between publics and scientists.

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

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