Author: Birte Fähnrich – Berlin-Brandenburg Academy of Sciences and Humanities, Germany


  • Hannah Feldman – The Australian National University, Australia
  • Jane Gregory – University of Cambridge, United Kingdom
  • Susana Herrera Lima – Universidad Jesuita de Guadalajara, Mexico
  • Ivan Lukanda – Makere University, Uganda
  • Simone Roedder – University of Hamburg, Germany
  • Louise Windfeldt – University of Copenhagen, Denamrk

Activists (e.g. environmental, health, food, and social justice) compete with other societal actors for public attention and sovereignty over issues and opinions. Some take on roles as “alternative” science communicators in the public sphere (Maeseele, 2009). They use scientifically informed expertise as a social currency (Fähnrich, 2018). Like all communicators of science, activists draw on the “symbolic legitimacy” of science (Cox, 2013) to confer credibility on their claims in the wider social environment. They make strategic use of science to influence political and/or economic decision-making and motivate civic action (Yearly, 2014).

Besides these findings, our perception of and our knowledge about activists as “alternative” science communicators lacks substantial analysis and reflection. The round table offers a platform for exchange and discussion on this topic by focussing especially on the following three themes:

Interrogating assumptions related to what is labelled ‘alternative’/advocate, academic framing of scientists‘/advocates‘ roles and issues as socio-ecological problems

The impact, democratic legitimacy, and relevance of ‘alternative’ science communication for science communication and society

The problems and opportunities associated with activists’ perspectives in relation to the discipline for which they are advocating

Session attendees will first discuss these themes in three break out rooms. To inspire the discussions, there will be two lightning talks per group. Finally, groups will report on their conclusions in the plenum and consider future directions and potential follow up activities.

Birte Fähnrich (Berlin-Brandenburg Academy of Sciences and Humanities, Germany)
Michelle Riedlinger (Queensland University of Technology, AUS)
Emma Weitkamp (University of the West of England, Bristol, UK)

The author has not yet submitted a copy of the full paper.

Presentation type: Roundtable discussion
Theme: Transformation