Background: Science communication is becoming a widely practiced and researched field of activity in contemporary society. Activities aimed at bringing science to the public embrace an expanding number and forms of different media that help to communicate science to a wider audience. While many developments in this field are quite similar across many countries, one can trace also considerable national differences or at least certain distinct trends in terms of timing of emergence of certain activities or certain framework conditions that exert an influence on specific initiatives, etc.

Objective: This paper aims to draw a comparatively broad review of different science communication activities undertaken in Latvia in a historical perspective since early 20th century up to nowadays and provide analysis of these developments in the national context in terms of changing trends, forms and agents.

Methods: Empirical data for the study have been based on expert interviews, archive materials, press articles, internet resources (institutional websites) and library stock.

Results: In the course of the study, several distinct periods of developments in the field of science communication in Latvia over the two centuries were distinguished. The first one can be traced back to the first independent state of Latvia (1918‐1940) followed by the Soviet period (1940‐1991) with developments largely conditioned by the trends of the centralised planning. After restoration of independence, a new period was marked with many former activities abolished in the light of the challenges and problems faced on the way of putting in place a new system of governance (1991‐2000).

As of year 2000 and even more so after Latvia's accession to the European Union, a new round of activities in the field of science communication have been emerging and becoming established in Latvia featuring transnational learning along with an expanding scope of communication media and growing interactivity.

Conclusions: Elements of public communication of science have been present in Latvia already for quite a while with many traditions in the field established in the course of time. Yet, the reviewed developments reveal a rather diverse and simultaneously changing mix of science communication activities and mechanisms with some being abolished, others modified, still others introduced anew or again restored under various regimes of governance. The historical, political, social and economic conditions and trends prove to be crucial in determining th scope and nature of science communication in a national context. While under socialism science and its popularisation was under the wing of the state thereby being considerably promoted by means of centralised planning, principles of market economy introduced after regaining of independence in Latvia substantially altered the field in terms of supply and demand factors operating in the open market. The different periods also feature varying degrees and forms of institutionalisation of science communication. Besides, the landscape of science communication activities in Latvia presents a mixture of top‐down and bottom‐up as well as formal and informal initiatives that complement each other.

Activities of science communication are also strongly related to the changing prestige and popularity of science as a field of activity in a given society in different historical periods demonstrated also by the changes in the status of science in Latvia.

An important contributing factor affecting specific modes of science communication are the available media per se with an expanding scope of technical means opening up new channels of communication. One can trace also interesting developments in respect to the groups of agents of science communication in Latvia ranging from journalists, individual scientists and research organisations as well as the responsible officials to non‐governmental organisations occupying an expanding niche in this field.

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Public Communication of Science and Technology

 

Public communication of science in Latvia
A historical review

Anda Adamsone‐Fiskovica   Latvian Academy of Sciences

Background: Science communication is becoming a widely practiced and researched field of activity in contemporary society. Activities aimed at bringing science to the public embrace an expanding number and forms of different media that help to communicate science to a wider audience. While many developments in this field are quite similar across many countries, one can trace also considerable national differences or at least certain distinct trends in terms of timing of emergence of certain activities or certain framework conditions that exert an influence on specific initiatives, etc.

Objective: This paper aims to draw a comparatively broad review of different science communication activities undertaken in Latvia in a historical perspective since early 20th century up to nowadays and provide analysis of these developments in the national context in terms of changing trends, forms and agents.

Methods: Empirical data for the study have been based on expert interviews, archive materials, press articles, internet resources (institutional websites) and library stock.

Results: In the course of the study, several distinct periods of developments in the field of science communication in Latvia over the two centuries were distinguished. The first one can be traced back to the first independent state of Latvia (1918‐1940) followed by the Soviet period (1940‐1991) with developments largely conditioned by the trends of the centralised planning. After restoration of independence, a new period was marked with many former activities abolished in the light of the challenges and problems faced on the way of putting in place a new system of governance (1991‐2000).

As of year 2000 and even more so after Latvia's accession to the European Union, a new round of activities in the field of science communication have been emerging and becoming established in Latvia featuring transnational learning along with an expanding scope of communication media and growing interactivity.

Conclusions: Elements of public communication of science have been present in Latvia already for quite a while with many traditions in the field established in the course of time. Yet, the reviewed developments reveal a rather diverse and simultaneously changing mix of science communication activities and mechanisms with some being abolished, others modified, still others introduced anew or again restored under various regimes of governance. The historical, political, social and economic conditions and trends prove to be crucial in determining th scope and nature of science communication in a national context. While under socialism science and its popularisation was under the wing of the state thereby being considerably promoted by means of centralised planning, principles of market economy introduced after regaining of independence in Latvia substantially altered the field in terms of supply and demand factors operating in the open market. The different periods also feature varying degrees and forms of institutionalisation of science communication. Besides, the landscape of science communication activities in Latvia presents a mixture of top‐down and bottom‐up as well as formal and informal initiatives that complement each other.

Activities of science communication are also strongly related to the changing prestige and popularity of science as a field of activity in a given society in different historical periods demonstrated also by the changes in the status of science in Latvia.

An important contributing factor affecting specific modes of science communication are the available media per se with an expanding scope of technical means opening up new channels of communication. One can trace also interesting developments in respect to the groups of agents of science communication in Latvia ranging from journalists, individual scientists and research organisations as well as the responsible officials to non‐governmental organisations occupying an expanding niche in this field.

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

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