It is easier to develop a myth than it is to dispel one and the field of science communication is just as prone to myths as any other profession. When I first left science research to become a science communicator 7 years ago, one of the main theories being expounded was that the majority of scientists are not willing to communicate with the public. The general view was that scientists just want to sit at their lab bench, do their research and not be bothered by the media. They were accused of snobbery, "nerdishness" and of being cut off from the rest of the world. One Australian politician even called them wimps.

I believe that a series of Forums we have been running in Australia for over six years shows that this view is a myth. The Horizons of Science Forums are unique events in which experts in a field of science and technology are brought together to present their research and ideas to the general public via the media. The Forums are unlike scientific conferences or press conferences in that the media are equal players and the scientists are well-briefed in presenting their work to a lay audience in a visually exciting way.

Overall, the Forums have involved over 200 experts from 120 Australian institutions and have attracted over 260 different reporters, editors and producers (many of them reporting from a distance). The feedback received from scientists and media representatives has been overwhelmingly positive.

I believe the unwilling scientist is only unwilling because she/he does not often get the chance to communicate in a non-threatening environment and does not always know how. Give them the forum and they are willing players in the communication game.

(The Horizons series was established in 1993 by the Centre for Science Communication at the University of Technology, Sydney under the direction of science writer and broadcaster, Dr Peter Pockley and with financial support from the Australian Department of Industry, Science and Tourism. The Forums have been running successfully for 6 years and are now organised as a collaborative project with the Centre for the Public Awareness of Science at the Australian National University in Canberra. )

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Public Communication of Science and Technology

 

The unwilling scientist fact or fiction?

Susannah Eliott   University of Technology Sydney

It is easier to develop a myth than it is to dispel one and the field of science communication is just as prone to myths as any other profession. When I first left science research to become a science communicator 7 years ago, one of the main theories being expounded was that the majority of scientists are not willing to communicate with the public. The general view was that scientists just want to sit at their lab bench, do their research and not be bothered by the media. They were accused of snobbery, "nerdishness" and of being cut off from the rest of the world. One Australian politician even called them wimps.

I believe that a series of Forums we have been running in Australia for over six years shows that this view is a myth. The Horizons of Science Forums are unique events in which experts in a field of science and technology are brought together to present their research and ideas to the general public via the media. The Forums are unlike scientific conferences or press conferences in that the media are equal players and the scientists are well-briefed in presenting their work to a lay audience in a visually exciting way.

Overall, the Forums have involved over 200 experts from 120 Australian institutions and have attracted over 260 different reporters, editors and producers (many of them reporting from a distance). The feedback received from scientists and media representatives has been overwhelmingly positive.

I believe the unwilling scientist is only unwilling because she/he does not often get the chance to communicate in a non-threatening environment and does not always know how. Give them the forum and they are willing players in the communication game.

(The Horizons series was established in 1993 by the Centre for Science Communication at the University of Technology, Sydney under the direction of science writer and broadcaster, Dr Peter Pockley and with financial support from the Australian Department of Industry, Science and Tourism. The Forums have been running successfully for 6 years and are now organised as a collaborative project with the Centre for the Public Awareness of Science at the Australian National University in Canberra. )

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

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