Author: Emma Weitkamp, UWE, United Kingdom

Co-authors: Mário Montenegro, Simon Parry

Format: Roundtable discussion

Science and theatre may have been in dialogue since ancient times, but interest from the science communication community increased sharply following the success of Michael Frayn’s play Copenhagen (1998). Much of the interest in theatre exploring scientists or scientific themes has come from disciplines traditionally associated with theatre, such as literary studies or applied theatre. This round table seeks to explore the field from the distinct perspective of science communication scholarship, specifically encompassing theatrical productions which address science communication objectives. We consider what science-theatre has to offer those working in science communication and some of the reasons that practitioners have for combining science and theatre in their work. We invite the audience to consider both the opportunities and challenges presented when bringing together science and theatre in a science communication context. The panellists are each invited to present a short provocation drawing from their experience as researchers and practitioners in this area, offering insights to those interested in including science-theatre within their research or practice. Initial questions from the chair will be used to initiate a discussion between the panellists, after which we will invite questions from the audience.

Speaker perspectives

Emma Weitkamp will present findings from a global survey of science-theatre practitioners, exploring the diversity of professionals involved, who range from actors to historians, ethicists, scientists and science communicators, and their motivations for working with science and theatre, which comprise pragmatic, personal and fundamental goals. Her short provocation will raise questions about the roles and values of science-theatre and addressing the benefits and challenges practitioners see to combining these two grammars. Emma is co-author (with Carla Almeida) of Science & Theatre: Communicating Science and Technology with Performing Arts (Emerald Publishing). Her research explores the intersections of science and arts, including performative and visual media.

Mário Montenegro will focus on the collaborative dramaturgical work with scientists, which he has been developing with Marionet theatre company, at the University of Coimbra. From an audience’s perspective, the resulting theatre plays are gateways to the hidden functioning of the scientific endeavour, revealing the structure and work relationships behind scientific development. From the participant scientists’ perspectives, this kind of work expands their communication and interrelationship abilities, and constitutes a forum where they talk publicly about matters related to their profession that they might not state elsewhere. As a theatre director, actor, playwright, professor of Performance and Theatre Studies at the University of Coimbra and senior researcher at the Centre for Interdisciplinary Studies, Mario will draw on a range of practice perspectives. He is the Artistic Director of Marionet (, a theatre company focused on the interplay between theatre and science.

Simon Parry draws our attention specifically to theatre engaging with health themes. He will discuss implications for contemporary theatre and performance practices of the increasing politicisation of health in the UK and elsewhere. He will explore case studies of theatre companies and reflect on how they have attempted to incorporate health themes and expertise in their programming and producing processes. Simon is Senior Lecturer in Drama and Arts Management at the University of Manchester. His research explores the politics and aesthetics of creative practice at the intersection of science, health and performance. He is the author of Science in performance: theatre and the politics of engagement (Manchester: MUP, 2020) and is currently co-editing a new Routledge Companion to Performance and Science with Adele Senior and Paul Johnson.

Author: Carla Almeida, Museu da Vida – Fiocruz, Brazil

Format: Individual paper

During the COVID-19 pandemic, science, scientists, their knowledge and discoveries became not only an everyday subject, but also an object of public scrutiny. Traditional media, by providing wide coverage of the topic, opened a privileged space for this scrutiny to take place. Interested in examining the modes of (dis)authorisation of scientific discourse in COVID-related debates held in traditional media, we collected 123 comments from readers of 14 science news on the subject published in the online version of two Brazilian newspapers – Folha de S.Paulo and O Globo – between April 12 and May 9 of 2020. We then conducted a discourse analysis, mobilizing concepts from Charaudeau’s Semiolinguistic Theory, through which we sought to identify discursive markers of acceptance/reaffirmation, weighting/negotiation and rejection of the authority of science/scientists and the argumentative device supporting the different positions of the readers. The comments analysed suggest readers generally supportive of science, who use expert/pedagogical language in their interventions to comment and explain the science behind reported studies. Although we did not identify a position of total rejection of science, stories about controversial topics, such as (hydroxy)chloroquine, generated comments questioning scientific methods and researchers’ motivations. Among these critical comments, we verified a dispute of authority among the readers – who can talk about science? We also identified among the comments on (hydroxy)chloroquine news stories a strong polarization between supporters and critics of the drug’s use, reflecting the political polarization in Brazil, governed by a right-wing denialist president who then defended the drug’s use as a Covid treatment against the Brazilian scientific authorities, represented mostly by the left. In this sense, our study contributes to current discussions on the legitimacy of science in a context of increasing denialism and intense circulation of misinformation and on the complex relationships between science and politics.

Author: Greta Alliaj, Ecsite – European Network of Science Centers and Museums, Belgium

Co-author(s): Wenzel Mehnert, Lena Söderström

Format: Demonstration

‘You have been chosen to sit on the Citizen World Council and decide in good conscience what will be best for the future of the World.’ Thus begins the players’ adventure in the game newly developed by the EU-funded TechEthos project to elicit societal values, attitudes and concerns from the public, while introducing them to the world of new and emerging technologies, such as Extended Reality, Neurotechnologies, or Climate Engineering. In co-creation with science engagement professionals and based on gamification principles, TechEthos has developed a collaborative, serious game that transmits the trade-offs and unintended consequences in the evolution of technologies. Three play rounds introduce technology subfields, possible application areas and societal and ethical impacts, each with their own consequences on three social factors that need to be kept in equilibrium throughout the game. Teams of players will try the game in six European countries (Austria, Czech Republic, Romania, Serbia, Spain, and Sweden) in the autumn of 2022. Its deployment by science centres and museums will include collaborations with associations and organisations supporting vulnerable groups, in view of a more inclusive participation in such activities. During the demo session, conference participants will be able to hear from the game developers, practitioners and researchers about their experience with the game, including its application in different contexts. They will also explore a physical copy of the game, play themselves through a game round in small groups, and hear about our findings, including what worked and what could be improved. We hope the game’s modularity and open access will inspire others to take up and enhance the tool and develop new sets in their areas of work.

Author: Joachim Allgaier, Hochschule Fulda, Germany

Format: Individual paper

YouTube now has almost 2,7 billion users worldwide. It is one of the most popular of various online video-sharing platforms, that have become influential information sources for many people around the world. This also concerns scientific, technological and science-related topics such as COVID-19, vaccination, climate change, artificial intelligence, biotechnology and many others. The potential of online videos for public science and technology communication is in fact huge. However, since many online-video platforms do not have gatekeeping and quality control mechanisms in place they are also accused of being spreaders of misinformation, disinformation and hostile conspiracy theories related to science, technology and research. In this talk some of the policies that online social media platforms have set up as potential answers to such accusations, are reviewed, and the available evidence on whether they are successful or not is assessed. Here the routes taken sometimes vary considerably and platformspecific problems will be presented and discussed critically. Only very few of the platforms have specific policies installed. In the cases where community rules or guidelines are formulated these are often very vague and general, and often it is nontransparent when and what content or creators are sanctioned. A particularly interesting example is YouTube’s policy for demonetizing content that denies anthropogenic climate change. Here only very specific statements concerning anthropogenic climate change denial are affected while other statements that oppose climate science are not affected by this specific policy. This development points to the necessity that science communication research must also develop an understanding of anti-science discourses in order to assist effective potential ways of policing these in popular online social media platforms.

Author: Habib Mohammad Ali, University of Liberal Arts Bangladesh, Bangladesh

Co-author: Bishaka Tanchangya, University of Liberal Arts Bangladesh, Bangladesh

Format: Online conference, 5 April – Watch session recording

In this session presenters will explore connections between science communication, politics and social themes.

Bangladesh, a country of South Asia, is affected by climate change, refugee migration, and health crises. Along with the government, NGOs have been providing services to those affected by these crises across the country. NGO professionals communicate science-based information to raise awareness of different health hazards caused by floods, droughts, salinity in water due to sea rise, tornados, and COVID-19 among the vulnerable groups. It seems that science communication plays a supportive role through these NGO professionals in the social development of Bangladesh. Therefore, NGOs can be perceived as active social agents and stakeholders that apply, promote and organize science communication to address the needs of different disadvantaged communities. It has been observed that NGOs, under the terms of risk and health communication, have played a key role in raising awareness of COVID-19 to counter misinformation by disseminating science-based information among target groups and stakeholders.

This proposal, based on an ongoing qualitative study, will discuss the implications of science communication for NGOs in Bangladesh with a focus on COVID-19 prevention scenario. It follows an exploratory case study approach to investigate the issue by focusing on Rupantor (Transformation), an NGO located in the coastal zone of Bangladesh. It will also shed light on how this NGO relies on science-based stakeholders and sources for developing preventive messages of COVID-19 pandemic in its health and social interventions. The proposal, with a critical reflection, will identify themes, messages, channels and other aspects of the risk communication campaign process to address COVID-19 by that NGO. The data collected and analyzed through utilizing semi-structured interview and discourse analysis methods found that the NGO used Facebook, YouTube and their website as their prime channels to promote the information about COVID-19 prevention and engage the audiences of the rural areas. Themes of its campaign messages include applying health and hygiene measures, preventing misinformation, stopping discrimination against the repatriated workers, stopping child marriage during this crisis, responding to cyclones with COVID-19 crisis, and eating healthy diets. To collect and organize science-based information for developing campaign messages, the NGO professionals relied on the regular announcements of the World Health Organizations, Institute of Epidemiology, Disease Control and Research Bangladesh, Ministry of Health and Family Welfare Bangladesh and other related trustworthy sources.

The study tried to advance the theory of participatory science communication by exploring the NGO’s discursive role to communicate the COVID-19 prevention messages and its spaces to engage local people and NGO members in developing YouTube materials and social media content on the risk and science communication issues. The findings of this study will be presented through Power Point presentation slides with different themes and photographs. It will also include one video of the campaign with English subtitles and the web-links of its online materials. The knowledge from this study will benefit NGO workers in other parts of the world to develop their interventions to address such crises while relevant scholars can find newer avenues for further studies on examining the role of NGOs in communicating risk and science related issues for public welfare. It will also contribute to scholarship and theory building in the understudied area of NGO-related participatory science communication.

Author: Jacqueline Aenlle, Kansas State University, United States

Format: Mini-workshop

Many communication professionals rely on the engagement of scientists to support and strengthen our communication efforts. Though some scientists enjoy working with communicators, many still have reservations. This mini-workshop will explore how to better engage with scientists. This 50-minute workshop is focused on the relationship between scientists and communicators or journalists, discusses recent testimonials from subject matter experts on their experiences interacting with different communicators and journalists, and describes which opportunities they are more likely to accept. The workshop will start by sharing common barriers to scientists participating in science communication efforts and ways organizations are addressing these barriers. Next, participants will hear from a panel that includes podcast hosts, Extension agents, and university scientists who have participated in a variety of outreach opportunities. These testimonials will be pre-recorded and shared via video at the conference. After allowing adequate time for discussion of workshop participants’ experiences with building relationships with scientists and challenges they’ve faced, we will conclude this workshop by examining the role of trust (e.g., the trust equation as presented in the Trusted Advisor by David Maister, Rob Galford, and Charles Green) in this relationship, existing trust survey instruments, and items of trustworthiness to consider when working with scientists to discuss their work. This workshop will be of interest to science writers, podcasters, and multi-media producers since many of the examples and testimonials are from these fields. Attendees will leave the workshop with a better understanding of trust dimensions, reservations of scientists when participating in science communication, and tips for strengthening relationships with scientists to increase their willingness to participate in science communication.

Author: Jacqueline Aenlle, Kansas State University, United States

Co-author(s): Jamie Loizzo, Lisa Lundy

Format: Individual paper

As trust in science continues to fluctuate, it is important to create opportunities for scientists to communicate with the public and develop trusting relationships with consumers. While some agricultural and natural resource (ANR) scientists and Extension agents participate in various outreach opportunities, many do not and face several barriers to participating, such as a lack of incentive, knowledge, or confidence. Podcasts have served as an innovative way to share and make scientific knowledge more accessible to larger public audiences. This study aimed to examine the experiences of ANR scientists and Extension agents who have served as a guest on science podcasts. In total, 18 scientists from a land grant university completed the survey in its entirety, and five voluntarily participated in a follow-up interview. On podcasts, participants discussed topics including environmental, food, and human sciences. The results of this study showed that the podcast guests identified as white, Hispanic/Latino, and Asian and were balanced between males and females. Podcast guests had little to no formal science communication training but were highly educated individuals involved with formal or informal education, and had spoken on podcasts about agriculture and occasionally topics such as environmental science, food, natural resources, and human sciences. Guests indicated that institutions could better support science communicators by providing additional training and professional development opportunities. Future research should examine how peer modeling can be used to recruit more scientists to science communication opportunities and explore how organizations and institutions can better collaborate with scientists and support their outreach via workshops and other training opportunities.

Author: Marianne Achiam, University of Copenhagen, Denmark

Co-authors: Mairéad Hurley, Laura Conner, Sabrina Vitting-Seerup

Format: Problem-solving workshop

This workshop introduces and discusses arts-based approaches as a way to enable boundary crossing in science communication and education. By acknowledging and harnessing multiple modes of knowing and sense-making, arts-based (or STEAM) approaches can not only transcend the disciplinary possibilities of both the sciences and the arts, they can also prompt equitable and participatory forms of science communication. Arts-based approaches thus have the potential to promote cognitive, experiential and emotional engagement with complex, trans-disciplinary topics, such as sustainability, climate change and the biodiversity crisis.

In this workshop, we will first share practical experiences and empirical research into arts-based methods in undertaking science communication and education activities. Speakers’ experiences
range from training science communicators, to community-building for climate mitigation, and professional development of educators from formal and informal contexts.

Next, we will carry out a “Thought Swap” exercise in order to elicit participants’ thinking about the role of emotion and sensory experience in science education and communication, and what that might offer audiences. In this technique, participants create two lines facing each other. The session leaders introduce a prompt, and facing pairs discuss the prompt. Each partner summarises their partners’ thoughts in a quick share out to the group. Participants then pair with the next person in line for the next prompt. Prompts will take a point of departure in the presented experiences and research.

Finally, we will draw out the main points of the “Thought Swap” exercise and engage participants in a more general discussion, offering perspectives from recent research.

The workshop speaks directly to the theme of the conference because it engages participants – researchers and practitioners – in collaborating and co-creating knowledge about arts-based
methods in science communication and education. It thus directly demonstrates the expansion of epistemological perspectives that characterises arts-based methods.

Author: Noelle Aarts, Radboud University Nijmegen, The Netherlands

Co-author: Lotte Krabbenborg

Format: Linked paper

Two years ago, 14 experts accepted the invitation to be part of the so-called Future Panel on Synthetic Life. The panel included members with expertise in chemistry, physics, synthetic biology, social sciences and public engagement, legal procedures, ethics, media, bio art, risk assessment, policy and management and biotech-industry. The overall aim of the Future Panel was to give substance to the four pillars of responsible innovation (RI): anticipation, reflexivity, inclusiveness and responsiveness. As such, in a series of meetings the panel discussed issues related to the question: how should we organize the development of the syncell in such a way that it contributes to a fair, just and sustainable world? The aim of this panel was to write a position paper with an initial agenda for future political, academic and public debate regarding the responsible innovation of the synthetic cell.

In this study we analyze the process through which the position paper came about. The focus was on the various frames that were brought to the fore in the future panel discussions, including how these were interactionally constructed, selected and used. A crucial moment was when one of the participants introduced a helpful metaphor: “It seems we want to build the bus, but nobody cares about how to build the bus”. Another crucial moment took place when two panel members decided to reject co-authorship as they could not agree with the way their contributions were combined with those of others.

Our study confirms the potential controversial nature of synthetic cell technology and the communicative and institutional challenges that arise when putting RI in practice. Several
recommendations are made for discussing the building of a synthetic cell with relevant stakeholders in the context of RI, including the wider public.