In a democratic society, citizens must be informed of the latest scientific advances and discoveries which are carried out in science institutes so that they can participate in the debate about the trends science will follow, its applications, its benefits and its risks. This is very important since in many modern states, in particular in Mexico, inside the National Autonomous University of Mexico (UNAM), scientific research is funded with the citizens’ taxes.

Science communication should be thought of as benefitting not only individuals who have no direct contact with scientific research, but also scientists. It is important that the latter communicate their projects and discoveries:when they do so, their work gains social recognition, their institution gets exposure, and they are more likely to get funding for their next project. However, as scientists are used to discuss their work only with their colleagues, most of them find communicating their results to the general public very complicated and frustrating. Taking this into account, it is crucial for science institutes to have communication of science offices, run by professionals in the field, which function as a bridge between scientists and society.

Even though many academic institutions in America and Europe have had communication of science offices in science institutes, Mexican institutes used to consider that science communication was trivial and unnecessary. In the last few years, however, some institutes in UNAM have hired professionals to run offices whose tasks include organizing press conferences, writing articles and organizing events aimed at the general public, and doing public relations for the institute, among others.

No matter what the professional training of the communicator of science, they can never be expert in all the subjects of interest of the institute. Hence, the members of the communication team must carry out extensive and rigorous research about these areas, which are of great complexity, and in which they generally have little or no experience. Moreover, they must find the best way to communicate these subjects. In order to fulfill this objective, they need to work in close collaboration with the researchers of the institute.

In this paper, I will talk about my experiences as Head of the Communication of Science Unit of the Nuclear Sciences Institute (ICN) in UNAM, in order to discuss the interaction between the head of Communication of Science and the researchers in an institute. Moreover, I will discuss the process that begins with the publication of a scientific paper and ends with the creation of articles for the general public, leaflets, scientific journalism articles and press releases. I will also mention the way that this process has helped us in interacting with journalists, teachers, students and general audiences. Finally, I will mention how having a Communication of Science Office has positively affected the life of the ICN-UNAM.

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Public Communication of Science and Technology

 

Pride and prejudice
Science communication from within a science institute

Gabriela Villegas   National Autonomous University of Mexico

In a democratic society, citizens must be informed of the latest scientific advances and discoveries which are carried out in science institutes so that they can participate in the debate about the trends science will follow, its applications, its benefits and its risks. This is very important since in many modern states, in particular in Mexico, inside the National Autonomous University of Mexico (UNAM), scientific research is funded with the citizens’ taxes.

Science communication should be thought of as benefitting not only individuals who have no direct contact with scientific research, but also scientists. It is important that the latter communicate their projects and discoveries:when they do so, their work gains social recognition, their institution gets exposure, and they are more likely to get funding for their next project. However, as scientists are used to discuss their work only with their colleagues, most of them find communicating their results to the general public very complicated and frustrating. Taking this into account, it is crucial for science institutes to have communication of science offices, run by professionals in the field, which function as a bridge between scientists and society.

Even though many academic institutions in America and Europe have had communication of science offices in science institutes, Mexican institutes used to consider that science communication was trivial and unnecessary. In the last few years, however, some institutes in UNAM have hired professionals to run offices whose tasks include organizing press conferences, writing articles and organizing events aimed at the general public, and doing public relations for the institute, among others.

No matter what the professional training of the communicator of science, they can never be expert in all the subjects of interest of the institute. Hence, the members of the communication team must carry out extensive and rigorous research about these areas, which are of great complexity, and in which they generally have little or no experience. Moreover, they must find the best way to communicate these subjects. In order to fulfill this objective, they need to work in close collaboration with the researchers of the institute.

In this paper, I will talk about my experiences as Head of the Communication of Science Unit of the Nuclear Sciences Institute (ICN) in UNAM, in order to discuss the interaction between the head of Communication of Science and the researchers in an institute. Moreover, I will discuss the process that begins with the publication of a scientific paper and ends with the creation of articles for the general public, leaflets, scientific journalism articles and press releases. I will also mention the way that this process has helped us in interacting with journalists, teachers, students and general audiences. Finally, I will mention how having a Communication of Science Office has positively affected the life of the ICN-UNAM.

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

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