PCST Network

Public Communication of Science and Technology


Modern science communication
How and why it emerged in Australia

Toss Gascoigne  

The public's attitude towards science has gone through different phases since the outbreak of World War 2: fascination at the new machines of war; admiration mixed with revulsion at the atomic bomb; and wonder and excitement at Sputnik in the 1950s. Moon landings, the home computer and kidney dialysis added to the lustre. But concerns at the power of science emerged in the 60s, with the publication of Rachel Carson's Silent Spring in 1962 and news of napalm and Agent Orange in the Vietnam War. The potential negative effect of new technologies on employment was a political issue. GM tomatoes, Dolly the Sheep and Mad Cow Disease fuelled public scepticism: was science out of control? It is against this changing backdrop that science communication emerged in Australia, first as an occupation, then an area of training and a field of study and research. What was the impetus pushing science communication forward? The paper will explore the motivations of the three main actors: the government, the public, and the scientific community. What were they hoping to achieve, and what role did they expect the science communicator to perform? It will explore these motivations against the events and milestones over the last 60 years, as courses were created at universities, new science centres created, and public programs launched. The paper will be a chapter in a new book looking at the emergence of science communication across the globe. It is written as a model chapter, suggesting a format and scope for 15 authors from 15 different countries to follow.

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