Science is an unbiased body of knowledge that urges people to be questioning, reflective and critical. It is also a social endeavour pursued by scientists who are part of the existing socio cultural milieu. The question then arises whether the society is equipped to cope up with the rapid advances in science. Science has the potential to be either beneficial or harmful. Despite professing an apparently positive outlook towards science, there is in general very little awareness or understanding among the public of how advances in science and technology affect our daily lives. Many a times it also the public which bears the brunt of the bizarre consequences of science misapplied. So the public has to be infused with scientific knowledge as well as be empowered with the capacity to weigh the pros and cons and make prudent judgment. This conviction forms the rationale for communicating science.

Scientific knowledge is complex and so communicating science is not easy. In a modern democratic society, each citizen should be able to discuss knowledgeably the scientific issues affecting their lives and make correct decisions regarding them. This brings into fore the importance of science communication and the agencies capable of doing this. Science communication is the process of conveying simplified scientific information to the public using various means and media, and unarguably science museums/centres are the fore runners in this job.

A visit to any museum/science centre full of colourful and visually attractive gallery exhibits is always entertaining and overawing. But it also raises several questions. What is the mission of the museum//science centre? Is entertainment it’s only purpose or is it something more? Does it just display artifacts or go beyond exhibits to communicate science?


As public institutions in the socio-cultural milieu, museums/science centres any where in the world profess to perform the three roles of Entertainment, Education and Evolving through the variety of programmes that they offer to the public. And one such museum in Mumbai metropolis is Nehru Science Centre, touted as the one of the largest science centre for the youngest citizens and attracting lakhs of visitors annually. With this in view the researcher has attempted to study the role of museums in Science Communication with special reference to the programmes conducted by Nehru Science Centre, Mumbai, for the period 1986-2006.

Using the case study method with some amount of quantification of data for the purpose of analysis, the researcher has profiled the growth of Nehru Science Centre during the period 1986-2006 and has described the various activities of the centre in terms of its roles and related them to the identified dimensions of science communication through the model of science communication developed by the researcher. The model views the museum as an informal learning setting, influenced by the relevant theories of learning and communication, and performing the three roles of Entertainment, Education and Evolving through the variety of programmes and also communicating science.

The process of science communication has been envisaged as having four dimensions which are assumed to be static and hierarchical.

In order to facilitate analysis the researcher has also developed an arbitrary Science Communication Index.

The study concludes that Nehru Science Centre has grown over the two decades both in quantity and quality of the programmes and activities. All the programmes are aimed at entertaining and educating the public, underpinning the center’s commitment to these roles. The Centre is found wanting in the areas of research and staff development. Also in the process of science communication there is an evidential shift from mere dissemination of knowledge to more of participation. So if better emphasis is given for research and staff development, if programmes involving the public like citizen panels, public debates on health related issues are held, perhaps the days are not far off when Nehru Science Centre will reach the deliberation mode, which is the ultimate goal of science communication.

">
 [PCST]
PCST Network

Public Communication of Science and Technology

 

Role of museums in science communication with special reference to Nehru science centre, Mumbai

Rajalakshmi K  

Science is an unbiased body of knowledge that urges people to be questioning, reflective and critical. It is also a social endeavour pursued by scientists who are part of the existing socio cultural milieu. The question then arises whether the society is equipped to cope up with the rapid advances in science. Science has the potential to be either beneficial or harmful. Despite professing an apparently positive outlook towards science, there is in general very little awareness or understanding among the public of how advances in science and technology affect our daily lives. Many a times it also the public which bears the brunt of the bizarre consequences of science misapplied. So the public has to be infused with scientific knowledge as well as be empowered with the capacity to weigh the pros and cons and make prudent judgment. This conviction forms the rationale for communicating science.

Scientific knowledge is complex and so communicating science is not easy. In a modern democratic society, each citizen should be able to discuss knowledgeably the scientific issues affecting their lives and make correct decisions regarding them. This brings into fore the importance of science communication and the agencies capable of doing this. Science communication is the process of conveying simplified scientific information to the public using various means and media, and unarguably science museums/centres are the fore runners in this job.

A visit to any museum/science centre full of colourful and visually attractive gallery exhibits is always entertaining and overawing. But it also raises several questions. What is the mission of the museum//science centre? Is entertainment it’s only purpose or is it something more? Does it just display artifacts or go beyond exhibits to communicate science?


As public institutions in the socio-cultural milieu, museums/science centres any where in the world profess to perform the three roles of Entertainment, Education and Evolving through the variety of programmes that they offer to the public. And one such museum in Mumbai metropolis is Nehru Science Centre, touted as the one of the largest science centre for the youngest citizens and attracting lakhs of visitors annually. With this in view the researcher has attempted to study the role of museums in Science Communication with special reference to the programmes conducted by Nehru Science Centre, Mumbai, for the period 1986-2006.

Using the case study method with some amount of quantification of data for the purpose of analysis, the researcher has profiled the growth of Nehru Science Centre during the period 1986-2006 and has described the various activities of the centre in terms of its roles and related them to the identified dimensions of science communication through the model of science communication developed by the researcher. The model views the museum as an informal learning setting, influenced by the relevant theories of learning and communication, and performing the three roles of Entertainment, Education and Evolving through the variety of programmes and also communicating science.

The process of science communication has been envisaged as having four dimensions which are assumed to be static and hierarchical.

In order to facilitate analysis the researcher has also developed an arbitrary Science Communication Index.

The study concludes that Nehru Science Centre has grown over the two decades both in quantity and quality of the programmes and activities. All the programmes are aimed at entertaining and educating the public, underpinning the center’s commitment to these roles. The Centre is found wanting in the areas of research and staff development. Also in the process of science communication there is an evidential shift from mere dissemination of knowledge to more of participation. So if better emphasis is given for research and staff development, if programmes involving the public like citizen panels, public debates on health related issues are held, perhaps the days are not far off when Nehru Science Centre will reach the deliberation mode, which is the ultimate goal of science communication.

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

BACK TO TOP