Science again discovers the public, especially with regard to the crisis the academic world is facing, as far as its justification and financing is concerned. Now the very first global Cyberconference on Public Understanding of Science (PUS) has canvassed different meanings that can be assigned to this expression. One of the central questions raised was in how far PUS ”should be integrated into the education of scientists, the general public and/or expert specialists in ‘science communication’?” (Steve Fuller, Summary of the first global Cyberconference on Public Understanding of Science, Lookup: http://www.dur.ac.uk/dss0www1/summary.htm).    

Our paper argues that the professional qualifications of scientists are to be augmented by communication skills allowing the scientists to use the mass media in order to communicate with the general public. This flows from an understanding that regards PUS as an ‘interface’ between science and society. The function of such an ‘interface’ is to generate science related models in a specifically correct and understandable way. This aim, however, creates the problem of how to convert scientific knowledge into formats required by the mass media. This includes the task of converting scientific insights for target groups outside one’s own scientific discipline (expert/lay communication) by using the rhetoric means of journalistic writing and speech with all its requirements of witticism, vividness, and educational reduction.    

In distinction from an understanding of qualification which restricts the fields of competence scientists are supposed to have to methodological abilities, the concept of PUS highlights described above a rather different consideration: Scientists will be obliged to make use of those ‘Key Qualifications’ which are needed for communicating science at the borderline of science and the public. Such ‘Key Qualifications’ can of course sometimes be picked up by mere chance during the process of ‘learning by doing’, i.e. when scientists pursue their research. However, fitting ‘Key Qualifications’ should rather be acquired in suitable ‘Learn Assisting Arrangements’. Such a ‘Learn Assisting Arrangement’ and the results from an executed workshop will be described exemplary without neglecting their general significance.    

The above mentioned workshop was labelled ”Journalistic writing for scientists”. Participants had to bring their own texts, which they wanted to make known to a wider public. In close co-operation with science journalists from some of the major national and regional Newspapers (Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung, Süddeutsche Zeitung, Die Woche, Spektrum der Wissenschaft, Neue Westfälische) the original texts were adapted to the journalistic needs of the respective papers while remaining scientifically correct and generally understandable.

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PCST Network

Public Communication of Science and Technology

 

Public understanding of science
Qualifications for scientists to communicate with the public

Johannes Wildt   Universitaet Dortmund

Olaf Gaus   Universitaet Bielefeld

Science again discovers the public, especially with regard to the crisis the academic world is facing, as far as its justification and financing is concerned. Now the very first global Cyberconference on Public Understanding of Science (PUS) has canvassed different meanings that can be assigned to this expression. One of the central questions raised was in how far PUS ”should be integrated into the education of scientists, the general public and/or expert specialists in ‘science communication’?” (Steve Fuller, Summary of the first global Cyberconference on Public Understanding of Science, Lookup: http://www.dur.ac.uk/dss0www1/summary.htm).    

Our paper argues that the professional qualifications of scientists are to be augmented by communication skills allowing the scientists to use the mass media in order to communicate with the general public. This flows from an understanding that regards PUS as an ‘interface’ between science and society. The function of such an ‘interface’ is to generate science related models in a specifically correct and understandable way. This aim, however, creates the problem of how to convert scientific knowledge into formats required by the mass media. This includes the task of converting scientific insights for target groups outside one’s own scientific discipline (expert/lay communication) by using the rhetoric means of journalistic writing and speech with all its requirements of witticism, vividness, and educational reduction.    

In distinction from an understanding of qualification which restricts the fields of competence scientists are supposed to have to methodological abilities, the concept of PUS highlights described above a rather different consideration: Scientists will be obliged to make use of those ‘Key Qualifications’ which are needed for communicating science at the borderline of science and the public. Such ‘Key Qualifications’ can of course sometimes be picked up by mere chance during the process of ‘learning by doing’, i.e. when scientists pursue their research. However, fitting ‘Key Qualifications’ should rather be acquired in suitable ‘Learn Assisting Arrangements’. Such a ‘Learn Assisting Arrangement’ and the results from an executed workshop will be described exemplary without neglecting their general significance.    

The above mentioned workshop was labelled ”Journalistic writing for scientists”. Participants had to bring their own texts, which they wanted to make known to a wider public. In close co-operation with science journalists from some of the major national and regional Newspapers (Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung, Süddeutsche Zeitung, Die Woche, Spektrum der Wissenschaft, Neue Westfälische) the original texts were adapted to the journalistic needs of the respective papers while remaining scientifically correct and generally understandable.

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

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