PCST Network

Public Communication of Science and Technology


Leadership patterns in science communication
Significance of ‘domain area leadership’

Manoj Kumar Patairiya  

There seems a great apathy about the significance of domain area knowledge of science communication while hiring people for leadership positions in science communication. The scenario by and large is similar at local, national and global levels. The scientific community and top technocrats seem concerned over lower science literacy, less science coverage, pathetic level of science awareness, health risks due to ignorance, mis-beliefs and superstitions, etc. However, when it comes to putting 'right person to right job', the same set of people has 'other considerations' and the situation continue to worsen! This is perhaps because the concept of 'science communication' is largely misunderstood by them! The paper examines different trends of hiring personnel for leadership positions in different science communication organizations in different countries and draws postulates in the form of guiding principles. Unless science communication is understood in its right earnest by policymakers and so called leaders in science communication, many efforts focused at public understanding of science may not yield results. Incidentally, you require a Trained Graduate Teacher qualification for educating primary level students but for communicating science to the entire nations and beyond, there are instances where you did not require any academic specialization in 'science communication' or at least 'science and mass communication', despite the fact that such specializations are available worldwide. When the idea of publication of the Indian Journal of Science Communication was floated, not only 'commoners' but many 'specialists' also started presuming that it was going to be yet another science journal or science magazine that will carry hardcore 'science research papers' or 'popular science articles'. Even some contributors have started submitting such materials. Similarly, when annual Indian Science Communication Congress was conceptualized in 2001, a great deviation from main subject was observed. More than 50% papers and presentations were on telecommunication, information communication technology, library science and/ or communication apparatuses, instruments or gadgets, etc. Some scholars had submitted their research papers on hardcore science and technology fields, i.e. nanotechnology, biotechnology, virology, new building materials, or crystallography, etc., while popular science writers started sending articles on galaxies, sun flairs, environment and other similar subjects of popular nature. Only a few papers, a bit closer to our subject, were on science education, agricultural extension, technology transfer, and alike. There were hardly a few who knew that in fact we were expecting contributions on 'science communication'. Almost same situation arises when there is a vacancy in 'science communication'; hardcore scientists, teachers, sociologists, historians, environment activists, political science graduates, computer personnel and marketing people, etc., manage to get through, but science communication professionals with domain area knowledge! The study brings out clearly that: i) there is a need of standardization of science communication as a distinct discipline; ii) it lacks appreciation by the policymakers until it remains a grey area; iii) the recruiting authorities must recognize the significance of the domain knowledge of science communication; iv) ensure that the science communication is the core area and peripheral areas do not come to core; v) vision and direction will come only from 'domain area leadership'.

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