This paper presents an approach to communicating human biology on radio, which draws on popular beliefs as a starting point for the discussion of scientific knowledge.    

Examples of bodily beliefs commonly held in Australia include the belief that colds can be caught from getting chilled, or that swimming within an hour after eating will cause stomach cramps. Scientifically, some of these are now treated as myths, some are accepted as valuable guides for survival, while some remain unresolved.    

Science teaching in schools has shifted from ‘the empty vessel theory’ of students to the ‘active construction of knowledge’ which builds on or challenges existing beliefs and preconceptions. The contemporary teaching of ‘thinking skills’ and has enabled students to engage in any content areas. How can this translate to the public science communication?    

My approach to communicating the science of the human body involved acknowledging and working from the talk-back radio audiences popular health beliefs and thereby tailoring the messages to a specific audience. Myth busting was not the intention as it sets up Science as an authority which can be problematic and alienating Nor was the intention to raise the public awareness of scientific debates which is also problematic and confounding. This is the quandary of the broadcast communicator.    

Whilst radio is a useful opportunity to communicate the nature of science, and the context of science in society, the dynamics of the production of knowledge appeared to be the key to effective science communication. The science behind popular beliefs became meaningful for the audience when pointing out the origins of these beliefs and reporting and speculating on the reasons why they were perpetuated at certain times. The audience was encouraged to be active in both contributing popular beliefs as well as providing stories of their origins, a deliberate shift in expertise and ownership of knowledge from the broadcaster.     

The understanding of science and the scientific debate is augmented by insight into how knowledge is produced and perpetuated; a useful ‘thinking skill’ for any content area.
 

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Public Communication of Science and Technology

 

Reflecting on the production of knowledge
Science communication of popular beliefs

Andrea Horvath   Museum Victoria

This paper presents an approach to communicating human biology on radio, which draws on popular beliefs as a starting point for the discussion of scientific knowledge.    

Examples of bodily beliefs commonly held in Australia include the belief that colds can be caught from getting chilled, or that swimming within an hour after eating will cause stomach cramps. Scientifically, some of these are now treated as myths, some are accepted as valuable guides for survival, while some remain unresolved.    

Science teaching in schools has shifted from ‘the empty vessel theory’ of students to the ‘active construction of knowledge’ which builds on or challenges existing beliefs and preconceptions. The contemporary teaching of ‘thinking skills’ and has enabled students to engage in any content areas. How can this translate to the public science communication?    

My approach to communicating the science of the human body involved acknowledging and working from the talk-back radio audiences popular health beliefs and thereby tailoring the messages to a specific audience. Myth busting was not the intention as it sets up Science as an authority which can be problematic and alienating Nor was the intention to raise the public awareness of scientific debates which is also problematic and confounding. This is the quandary of the broadcast communicator.    

Whilst radio is a useful opportunity to communicate the nature of science, and the context of science in society, the dynamics of the production of knowledge appeared to be the key to effective science communication. The science behind popular beliefs became meaningful for the audience when pointing out the origins of these beliefs and reporting and speculating on the reasons why they were perpetuated at certain times. The audience was encouraged to be active in both contributing popular beliefs as well as providing stories of their origins, a deliberate shift in expertise and ownership of knowledge from the broadcaster.     

The understanding of science and the scientific debate is augmented by insight into how knowledge is produced and perpetuated; a useful ‘thinking skill’ for any content area.
 

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

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